Irish Olympic athletes won’t get Covid vaccines early, says Chambers

Other countries such as New Zealand and Denmark have given Olympians priority

A health care worker examines Oleksandr Petriv, a member of the Ukrainian Olympic shooting team, before vaccinating him a dose of Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine against Covid-19 in Kiev. Photo: Volodymyr Petrov/EPA

A health care worker examines Oleksandr Petriv, a member of the Ukrainian Olympic shooting team, before vaccinating him a dose of Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine against Covid-19 in Kiev. Photo: Volodymyr Petrov/EPA

 

Irish Olympic athletes won’t be given priority for Covid-19 vaccination, according to Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers.

On Wednesday New Zealand became the latest country to vaccinate its athletes ahead of the Tokyo Games which begin on July 23rd with Olympians grouped in a category of “national significance” while athletes have also been vaccinated in countries including Ukraine, Denmark and Israel.

However, the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has previously said the organisation would not be in favour of athletes “queue-jumping” for vaccines and it will not be a requirement for athletes to be vaccinated in order to compete.

Speaking to OTBAM on Newstalk, Fianna Fáil TD Chambers said the IOC have been clear in their view and that Ireland will stick with that.

“I know there have been different responses to this across different countries. There has been a message from the IOC that Olympians should follow the national sequencing as it’s set out by each member state or by each nation themselves,” he said.

“We’ve obviously got an age-based sequence now that is transparent and fair, and that’s how we’ve decided to pursue vaccination right now.

“In fairness, certainly that’s what the message from the Olympic Federation has been... [that] the organisations within countries should follow the national sequence.

“I think that’s important so we maintain the integrity around vaccination.”

When asked if bumping athletes up the queue would be a possibility the Minister of State said he did not foresee that happening.

“Well, no. At the moment we’ve got sequencing based on age, and I think that’s transparent and fair. Certainly that was reflected by... on our sports management group we’ve got a representative of the athletes themselves and I think they recognise the sensitivity around this.

“We’ve seen other instances with issues with our vaccination in terms of who is prioritised over who. We all agree that age is the single biggest issue when it comes to the impact of Covid.”

The build-up to the Olympics continues to be plagued by questions about potential inequality with some athletes vaccinated and others not while Japan – with less than one per cent of its population vaccinated – is currently experiencing a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, leading the secretary general of the government’s ruling party to comment this week that a cancellation of the Games is not out of the question.

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