British Paralympian Neil Fachie believes athletes face a moral dilemma over being vaccinated for COVID-19 ahead of high-risk individuals, but said that he would take the jab if it was offered before this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Olympic Broadcasting Services chairman Dick Pound said last week that athletes should be given priority access to the vaccine so that the Tokyo Games could go ahead as scheduled from July 23.
More than 15,000 athletes from almost every country are expected to travel to Tokyo for the Olympics and the subsequent Paralympics.
“When that news broke, I was speaking to some of my teammates about it and the moral dilemma,” Fachie, who won a track cycling gold medal in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, was quoted as saying by the BBC.
“We’re fairly young, fit people who would not be considered high-risk for COVID, and the last thing you want to do is take a vaccine away from someone who needs it far more,” he said. “It’s not a great place to be. Should we get offered the vaccine then I imagine I would take it, but there’s definitely a question mark of am I really deserving or not?”
Meanwhile, British rowing great Matthew Pinsent said that the Olympics should be canceled, and Tokyo should then replace Paris as the host city for the 2024 Games.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist said that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) needed to take the lead.
“Once again the IOC need courageous leadership,” he wrote on Twitter. “The idea of Olympic athletes/officials/delegations getting vaccine priority is antithetical.”
“The risks of an event with 000s [thousands] of people flying round the world to gather unvaccinated is ludicrous,” he said.
Tokyo Olympics organizers yesterday played down a poll showing plunging support for the Games.
The comments, less than 200 days before the Games start, come with greater Tokyo under a state of emergency over a spike in COVID-19 cases.
In a New Year’s address to staff, Tokyo Games organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto put a positive spin on a Kyodo news poll published on Sunday showing 45 percent want the Games delayed again, with 35 percent favoring outright cancellation.
“The number of people calling for it to be canceled has only risen by about five percent,” Muto said. “The number of people calling for it to be postponed has risen a lot, but that means those people still want it to be held.”
Muto also dismissed as “fake news” a Japanese media report claiming that the IOC and Tokyo Games organizers would debate the event’s fate next month.
“When these types of reports surface, some people might feel anxious about them,” Muto said. “I want to say that we are not thinking that way at all, and that these reports are wrong.”
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