Australian athletes and coaches heading to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have been given permission to jump the COVID-19 vaccine queue.
The decision to allow athletes and officials to receive the virus jab ahead of the games was agreed to at National Cabinet on Tuesday, following calls from the Australian Olympic Committee.
It comes amid another wave of coronavirus in Japan, with more than 5000 cases being recorded daily.
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Around 2050 nominated athletes will now be prioritised and moved into the phase 1B category to ensure they’re immunised before jetting overseas for the james in July.
“We want to see our athletes head to Tokyo to compete and then return to Australia safely,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
The group will receive a mix of the two vaccines, with those aged under 50 to get the Pfizer jab and those over 50 to receive AstraZeneca.
“While vulnerable Australians remain an absolute priority as the vaccine rollout continues, National Cabinet understands the pressure our high-performance athletes have been facing as the Tokyo Games draw closer,” Sport Minister Richard Colbeck said.
“This will be a very different Olympics and Paralympics, but our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.”
The announcement has been welcomed by Australia’s Paralympic team.
“Today’s confirmation provides a new and important level of assurance for our team during what has been a Games preparation filled with uncertainty,” Paralympics Australia chief executive Lynne Anderson said in a statement.
“As part of the Government’s national rollout, a number of Paralympic athletes and support staff were classified under priority group 1b, due to their level of impairment and as such, some team members have begun the vaccination process.”
“However, for the rest of our team members, some of whom face the prospect of travelling overseas in the coming weeks for qualification events before heading to Tokyo, this decision allows complex planning to proceed with more certainty.”
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said it’s great news for all of our athletes and officials.
“There will be hundreds of very grateful athletes, coaches and their families relieved to know that their hard work over five years has been worth it. This added layer of assurance is what they were seeking,” Carroll said.
“The AOC will be working with our partners Aspen Medical on the logistics to ensure the vaccination of our athletes does not place any additional load on the public system”.