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Pfizer/BioNTech to donate COVID jabs to athletes and officials at Tokyo Olympics

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By Euronews  with AP
A display of the Olympic rings at the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo.
A display of the Olympic rings at the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Hiro Komae

Pfizer and BioNTech are to donate COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate athletes and officials taking part in this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

The two companies and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Thursday that delivery of vaccine doses will begin later this month "with the aim to ensure participating delegations receive second doses ahead of arrivals in Tokyo."

The Olympic Games, which were scheduled to take place in 2020 but were postponed due to the pandemic, will kick off on July 23.

The IOC noted that many governments are already working on ensuring their athletes and officials are vaccinated and that the new Memorandum of Understanding with Pfizer/BioNTech "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," IOC President Thomas Bach said.

All stressed that the donated doses will not be taken out of existing programmes, but will be in addition to existing quotas and planned deliveries around the world. Pfizer/BioNTech has so far delivered 430 million doses worldwide.

This follows the announcement in March by the IOC that it had received an offer from the Chinese Olympic Committee to make available doses of Chinese vaccine to delegations in countries where the jab had been approved.

The IOC said it was "ready to pay for the additional doses".

The organisation encourages athletes and officials to get the vaccine before this summer's events and to do so in full respect of national vaccination priorities but has also said it will not be mandatory for them to be vaccinated in order to participate.

Meanwhile, in Japan, an online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled has gained tens of thousands of signatures in a few days. Tokyo, Osaka and several other areas are under a state of emergency with rising coronavirus infections. The headline in English of the petition reads: "Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives."