The International Olympic Committee on Thursday announced that they have accepted a batch of donated from both Pfizer and BioNTech to vaccinate teams heading for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This follows a previous offer from the Chinese Olympic Committee to donate additional vaccines, which the IOC accepted and said that they would pay for.
The IOC didn’t say how many doses were pledged, nor specifically how they would be distributed.
While athletes in some countries, like the United States and Israel, will have access to vaccines prior to the Olympics without any special priority status, most of the world is still working on vaccinating its most vulnerable populations. According to Bloomberg data, less than half of the world’s countries have distributed enough vaccine doses to cover even 8% of their populations.
The IOC says that they expect that “a significant portion” of Games participants will have been vaccinated before arriving in Japan for the Olympic Games.
“The IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) are working with the NOCs and National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) to encourage and assist their athletes, officials and Games stakeholders residing in their territories to get vaccinated in their home countries in line with national immunisation guidelines, before they go to Japan. This is not only to contribute to the safe environment of the Games, but also out of respect for the residents of Japan.
“Many national governments have already taken positive steps in this regard, and are in consultation with their NOCs and NPCs to vaccinate Games participants. Based on the feedback from the NOCs and NPCs, it is expected that a significant proportion of Games participants will have been vaccinated before arriving in Japan. The new MoU adds to these efforts.”
“This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible. By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities. We would like to thank Pfizer and BioNTech for this very generous donation to support the vaccination of athletes and Games participants ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020,” he added.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, developed jointly by the two companies, is a two-dose vaccine. Immunity for the vaccine is prescribed to peak two weeks after the second dose, or five weeks after the first dose on the recommended interval. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games start in 11 weeks.
The announcement comes amid an ongoing conversation globally over international vaccine diplomacy and whether some wealthy countries should be doing more to help vaccinate the rest of the world. Specifically, several major governments, including the United States, have indicated support for loosening rules around patents of COVID-19 vaccines so that they can be manufactured and distributed more widely.
The IOC has updated its various playbooks that now include daily athlete testing at the Games as host nation Japan wrestles with a new wave of cases and a new State of Emergency.