All Canadian athletes competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics will have access to COVID-19 vaccines before they head to the global event, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s (COC) chief medical officer said on Friday.
COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandatory to compete in the July 23-August, 8 Games but they are recommended. COC Chief Medical Officer Mike Wilkinson said the pace of Canada’s vaccine rollout will allow the Tokyo-bound delegation to be vaccinated on time without jumping any queues.
“If we look at the process and what the planned timelines are of the vaccines, we are being assured by the government and by the vaccine task-force that by the time July rolls around anyone in Canada who wants to get the vaccine will be able to get it,” Dr Wilkinson told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“And so I am confident the Canadian team, i.e., that doesn’t only include athletes but coaches, sports staff, mission team volunteers, will be able to be vaccinated by the time they leave for Tokyo.”
Canada is sending a smaller delegation of about 750-850 people to the Olympics, down from the usual size of around 1,000 individuals, due to the pandemic. A number of roles that traditionally would have been performed on the ground in Tokyo will instead be done remotely.
Wilkinson said if anyone brings up concerns with taking the vaccine he will discuss with them the possible side effects, timing with regards to their training as well as the benefits.
“I have not had anybody in the delegation come to me and say that they don’t want to take the vaccine,” said Wilkinson.
“There are obviously people that may have medical contraindications due to some of the medications they are on or allergies. We are encouraging everyone to get the vaccine if they can but it’s not mandatory.”
Wilkinson also said the COC is ready to play a role when it comes to getting the vaccine distributed to its delegation.
“Our discussions revolve around how do we actually assist and utilise the infrastructure that we have within the Canadian sports system to deliver the vaccine,” he said.
“This way teams and athletes can get it done conveniently at their training sites within their bubbles so that we are not putting extra strain on the public system and that would enable the athletes to remain in their secured controlled environments where they are training.”