Vaccinations against COVID-19 are to be offered to all South African athletes traveling to Tokyo for this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The South African Sports Federation and the Olympic Committee (SASCOC) have confirmed their willingness to accept an offer from Pfizer-BioNTech’s International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the vaccine.
The rollout has been discussed with the South African government and, according to SASCOC, will not affect public access to bumps.
More than 55,500 people have died of COVID-19 in South Africa as a variant of the virus, first discovered in the country, continues to spread worldwide, causing serious disruption.
South Africans are also unable to travel to some places due to the diversity.
South Africa has only vaccinated one percent of its population, but the SASCOC insists that the bumps from the athletes will “not interfere with or inconvenience” the government’s plan to vaccinate South African citizens.
“The collaboration with the government to vaccinate our athletes had long since started,” said Ravi Govender, acting managing director of SASCOC.
Only one percent of the South African population has received a COVID-19 vaccine © Getty Images
“The offer from IOC and IPC [International Paralympic Committee] is therefore in line with SASCOC’s position that we take all precautions to ensure the safety of our athletes when Team SA is delivered to the Tokyo Games.
“We are grateful for the support and relief from the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Department of Health, and for the generosity of the IOC and IPC.”
According to SASCOC, the launch of the vaccines began with a testing phase on Thursday (May 20) at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, during which 31 members of the South African team were vaccinated.
The program begins tomorrow at various vaccination sites across the country.
“Vaccination of athletes is not compulsory, but this offer is another measure to ensure safe delivery of the games,” said a statement from the SASCOC.
“The Department of Health’s medical team and SASCOC staff are working together to contact athletes and agree vaccination dates and times to ensure that the process is efficient and smooth.”
The SASCOC is the latest NOC to agree to benefit from the IOC’s vaccination program after the British Olympic Association promised on Friday (May 21) to fully vaccinate all athletes and support staff before leaving for Tokyo.
Olympic champion and 400-meter world record holder Wayde van Niekerk will be one of the stars of the South African delegation to Tokyo © Getty Images
Under the IOC’s agreement with Pfizer, the NOCs are tasked with coordinating the distribution with their respective governments “in accordance with each country’s vaccination guidelines and in accordance with local regulations.”
The IOC has stated that vaccination will not be mandatory for athletes wishing to compete in Tokyo 2020, but expects a “significant number” of participants to have received the sting before the Games.
Earlier this week, IOC President Thomas Bach claimed that more than 80 percent of the people in the athletes’ village would be vaccinated.
IOC Vice President John Coates claimed it was now “clearer than ever” that the Games were safe for all participants and the general public in Japan.
In Rio 2016, South Africa collected 10 Olympic medals – including gold for sprinter Wayde van Niekerk and middle-distance runner Caster Semenya – as well as 17 at the Paralympics.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics run from July 23 to August 8, before the Paralympics take place between August 24 and September 5.