Sat, 15 May 2021

CANBERRA, April 16 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government is considering whether to prioritize athletes in the coronavirus vaccine rollout ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

The government has opened discussions with the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) on how to vaccinate around 480 Australian athletes and 500 support staff who are set to attend the Olympic Games in July.

Richard Colbeck, the Minister for Sport, confirmed on Friday that one proposal being explored was vaccinating the team as a priority.

"The government is in direct contact with the AOC over its proposal to priority vaccinate all Olympic team athletes and support staff," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Australia's vaccination program, which began in late February, has been plagued by delays, forcing the government to abandon its promise to inoculate the entire population by the end of October.

With fewer than 100 days to go until the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, Australian athletes have begun expressing concerns over the troubled rollout.

"I definitely would like the vaccine; it'll make me feel safer and more comfortable," canoeist Jess Fox, who won silver and bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, told News Corp Australia recently.

"You want to arrive at the Olympics fit, healthy, and if you do have to go overseas and compete before the Olympics, obviously COVID is more prevalent over there.

"So, having a vaccine would make me feel safer."

The Australian government has restricted access to the AstraZeneca vaccine for under 50s over blood clot concerns.

As a result, the AOC has asked that athletes be given the Pfizer vaccine.

"We want to make sure our athletes are given the best chance to be healthy and maintain that health through their preparation," Kieren Perkins, the president of Swimming Australia and former Olympic gold medalist, told the ABC.

"So, whatever the best vaccine that we can get that has the least potential side effects and the quickest dose cycle, we would want to try and access that."

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