COVID-19 vaccine not mandatory to compete in Tokyo, says USOPC
Posted by Steve Keating
(Reuters) - The United States Olympic Paralympic Committee (USOPC) will help athletes find a COVID-19 vaccine but will not need a shot to participate in the Tokyo Summer Games, CEO Sarah Hirshland said Wednesday.
With U.S. President Joe Biden instructing states on Tuesday to extend vaccination eligibility to anyone ages 18 and older by April 19, most athletes will have access to a COVID exam well before the Tokyo Olympics open on July 23. Have 19 rounds, but USOPC won't mandate one.
Instead, USOPC said it would provide logistical support to connect athletes and other staff to places where they can get the vaccine.
"We're not pursuing, we're not going to prescribe the vaccine for Team USA athletes or any other member of the delegation," said Hirshland during the opening session of Team USA's three-day virtual media summit. "But we encourage it.
"We are definitely facilitating this access to connect people with the local public health or local hospital systems and local providers so that wherever they train across the country they can find an easy way to get vaccinated.
"We know many of our athletes and staff have been vaccinated because they chose to offer this information, but this is not something we will be tracking or mandating."
The USOPC is encouraging athletes and staff to receive the vaccine, especially if Japan enters what appears to be a fourth wave of the pandemic just 107 days before the Games opening ceremony.
The athletes appear to be taking USOPC's advice, and those who attended the summit on Wednesday said they either had already received the vaccine or had registered for one.
Carlin Isles, a retired college American football player and track and field athlete, said he planned to get the vaccine after initial reluctance.
"I definitely had doubts about getting the shot," said Isles, 31, who played in the 2016 Rio Games. "Just for the whole purpose of my teammates (I'll do it) because if only one person gets COVID it could mess up our team and not everyone may be able to participate.
"So I'm a little worried about the side effects, but I'll take care of it when it comes down to it."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, additional reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Ed Osmond)
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