From L-R: Australian athletes AJ Roach, Henry Hutchinson, Marina Carrier, Jake Birtwhistle, Charlotte Caslick, Lisa Darmanin, Katie Ebzer, Lucy Stephan, Maurice Longbottom and Tom O’Halloran pose during the unveiling of the ASICS Australian Olympic Team competition uniforms for the Tokyo 2020 Games in front of the Sydney Opera House on March 31, 2021. (Steven Saphore/ Getty Images)
Australian athletes attending the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be prioritized to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
National Cabinet agreed on Tuesday that the Australian Olympic team, with 480 athletes and over 1500 support staff, will be vaccinated as part of the priority group 1b, which includes health care workers, elderly people over 70, indigenous Australians over 55, and adults with an underlying medical condition or significant disability among others.
“We want to see our athletes head to Tokyo to compete and then return to Australia safely,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a joint statement with Sports Minister Richard Colbeck.
“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,” Colbeck said. “This will be a very different Olympics and Paralympics, but our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.”
Athletes over 50 will receive the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine, while those under 50 will get Pfizer.
“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,” Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll said in a statement, noting that the Olympic team will be vaccinated outside of the public health system and not putting extra pressure to it.
Colbeck dismissed concerns that the athletes are jumping the vaccination queue, arguing that there will always be an overlap of the vaccination stages.
“No, I can’t actually because it was always anticipated there would be some overlap,” Colbeck told the ABC Radio on Tuesday.
“It was never going to be that we would finish 1a before we started 1b, or we would finish 1b before we started 2a.
“There was always anticipated overlap in the stages. That is largely driven by the availability of vaccine supplies, and that remains a consideration.”
About 1,969,337 vaccine doses have been administered in Australia so far, with 205,203 administered in aged and disability care facilities.
Originally destined in 2020 and postponed due to the CCP virus, the Tokyo Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8, with the Paralympic Games run from August 24 to September 5.
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