International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach announced recently that the Chinese Olympic Committee has offered COVID-19 vaccine doses to athletes competing at the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, as well as the 2022 winter Games in Beijing. According to the BBC, Bach said that the IOC will be paying for these additional vaccines set aside for the athletes.
“For each of these doses, the IOC will pay for two doses more which can be made available to the population in the respective countries,” he added.
Exactly how many vaccine doses that will require is unclear, because the pace of the vaccine rollout in some countries may be fast enough that their athletes will have already received the vaccine before the Games begin. This could be the case, for example, in the United States.
“The broad base of athletes may have access to the vaccine sooner than we thought initially possible,” said Sarah Hirshland, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee chief executive.
Some critics believe that China offering to immunize athletes ahead of the Games is nothing more than a PR stunt in response to increasing calls to boycott next year’s Winter Games because of political reasons. Still, the opportunity to vaccinate at least some of their citizens will be a welcome relief in countries where vaccine programs have been very slow.
Despite China’s offering, Olympic committees in countries like the U.K., the United States and Germany have said that their athletes must wait in line like everyone else to receive their vaccinations. The IOC has made it clear that they’d prefer as many athletes as possible to arrive in Tokyo with both doses, but maintain that it is not mandatory in order for them to compete and are not asking governments to change their vaccination rollout plans.
The Tokyo Olympic Games are still set to begin on July 23, and the Winter Olympics will start in February.