Olympics-Australia planning to vaccinate athletes before Tokyo Games

MELBOURNE, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Australia is planning to vaccinate its Olympians against COVID-19 before they head to the Tokyo Games, federal sport minister Richard Colbeck has said.

Colbeck confirmed plans were in place for athletes to be given COVID-19 vaccines before the July 23-Aug. 8 Games.

“We have received advice from ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) on a rollout plan, athletes fit within the plan and we’ll get to them,” Senator Colbeck said in comments published by the Canberra Times on Thursday.

“If our plans work OK it may very well be conceivable that Olympic athletes, for example, we’ll get to them before they head off to the Games anyway.”

A number of national Olympic committees are planning to vaccinate their athletes.

Israel’s Olympic Committee told Reuters on Wednesday that it had already vaccinated half its Olympic delegation and would complete the process by the end of May.

The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday the governing body was not in favour of athletes “jumping the queue” for COVID-19 vaccines.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it hoped athletes could be vaccinated but said vulnerable people and health workers must come first.

“We are recommending and encouraging our athletes to get vaccinated but support the IOC position that it’s not mandatory,” an AOC spokesman said on Thursday.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Toby Davis