With less than a hundred days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics (July 23 to August 8), the issue of the vaccination of athletes is increasingly debated. The sports ministry and the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) ensure that they are working hand in hand on the subject. A working group has been set up, explains the ministry, to “Define target audiences” and determine a ” calendar “ in line with the athletes’ agenda, part of which must still, in the coming weeks, ensure its presence in Tokyo during qualifying events.
“We are in the process of collecting the needs and requests from the athletes, their staff and the various federations”, declared, Wednesday April 14 during a press conference, Roxana Maracineanu, who specified to be “In discussion with the Ministry of Health to see which vaccines to use, where, when and how”.
Some 370 to 380 athletes must make up the French Olympic delegation in Tokyo. By including athletes while waiting for their qualification, a total of around 500 athletes are likely – if they wish – to be vaccinated, double with their supervision.
Given the very short lead time before the Games, the ideal would be to administer a single dose vaccine as desired by the athletes. But the suspension in the United States of Johnson and Johnson’s serum and the delay in its deployment in Europe oblige to consider the vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna and the time between their two injections – 28 days minimum – in the “calendar” devoted to athletes. French.
“If I were an athlete, I wouldn’t hesitate for a single second”
Hurry up. In order not to disrupt the various Olympic preparations, this vaccination campaign – the terms of which have yet to be decided with the health authorities, the only decision-makers in the matter -, must begin by the end of May, agree the ministry and the sports movement. French. “If there is an injection or two, that changes everything”, says one in the entourage of the Minister Delegate. The National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (Insep), in the Bois de Vincennes in Paris, is approached to be part of the vaccination centers.
The bottom line, Roxana Maracineanu recalled on Wednesday, is that “The athletes, their staff and their coaches can travel to Tokyo in complete safety from the Covid”. Denis Masseglia warns the refractory “That they take a risk”:
“They will have a sword of Damocles over their heads in Tokyo. If I were an athlete, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. “
Another advantage according to the president of the CNOSF: the vaccine, if it will not provide barrier gestures in the Olympic village, where 11,000 athletes from all over the world will meet, would make it possible to undergo PCR tests less often during competition.
Faced with the resurgence of the pandemic – the health situation has never been so worrying in Japan – the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has announced that it has purchased thousands of doses of the Chinese vaccine, does not impose to be vaccinated to participate in the Games. But the Lausanne-based body strongly recommends that delegations convince their athletes to do so. Russia, Israel, Denmark, Hungary, and more recently Kenya, the Netherlands and Australia have announced that they are complying with it.
“Avoid a cluster in the French team”
Denis Masseglia pleaded in January for the vaccination of French qualified for Tokyo. The boss of the sports movement did not hesitate to make athletes priority candidates for vaccination, highlighting the fact that athletes already benefited from exemptions for “Train and play their competitions”.
The subject then raised ethical questions, but the ramping up of the vaccination campaign in France and the small number of people concerned now make acceptable, for the CNOSF and the sports ministry, the “treatment” reserved for Olympic athletes. “The health situation is not at all the same as at the beginning of the year, advances the cabinet of the Minister Delegate. We must be consistent with the national strategy, but let’s avoid a cluster in the French team. ”
If it is enacted by the end of May, the vaccination of French athletes would unfold, according to the government calendar, just a few days before the opening to the under 50s, scheduled for mid-June.