LONDON (AP) — The British government is still deciding whether to accept an offer from Pfizer to fast-track Olympic and Paralympic athletes for COVID-19 vaccines.
Jabs are only being given to Britons aged 38 or older — though this will be extended to those over 35 from next week — with younger people only getting inoculated if they have an underlying health condition.
“It’s sensitive because the philosophy has been based on age and that’s been proved to be the right thing,” British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said. “The biggest indicator is age is the biggest factor and of course Pfizer have offered for the Olympics and we’ve asked them about that.”
Pfizer, which developed a vaccine with BioNTech, said earlier this month that it would donate doses to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo games with the rescheduled Olympics due to open on July 23.
While the Olympics begin in less than 10 weeks, Britain has a policy of delaying the second dose by up to 12 weeks to free up vaccines for more people. Britain announced Sunday that more than 20 million people have now received both doses. The two shots of the Pfizer vaccines were intended to be given three to four weeks apart.
“The government’s vaccine rollout has been excellent and, coupled with the IOC’s donation of the Pfizer vaccine for athletes, means we are hopeful of getting all athletes vaccinated before they travel to Tokyo,” British Olympic Association chairman Hugh Robertson said. “It is important for this to happen soon, to assure our hosts in Tokyo that we are doing all we can to keep their population safe.”
COVID-19 inoculations for Olympic athletes and officials picks up steam
Britain finished second in the gold-medal count at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics behind the United States, which is inoculating athletes. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are among the European nations to have already offered vaccines to athletes headed to Tokyo.
Japan has been struggling to slow infections ahead of the games and expanded a coronavirus state of emergency from six areas, including Tokyo, to nine on Friday.
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