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About 95% of Japanese athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympics are expected to be vaccinated for COVID-19, a top official said Thursday, just 50 days before the opening of the event.

The plan was unveiled by Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita at a time when Japan’s vaccination rate is still very low compared with many other developed nations.

But Yamashita said athletes do not need to feel guilty about practicing for the Olympics despite strong public opposition, insisting that the games can be held “safely and securely.”

The JOC, which began vaccinations of Olympic athletes and others involved in the games on Tuesday, said team doctors will inoculate 600 athletes, along with 1,000 coaches and support staff, with two shots each through July 20.

Yamashita, who himself received a shot on Thursday, said that vaccination numbers have increased more than expected after athletic organizations conveyed that the measure is “not only to protect ourselves but also to not cause trouble to others.”

Acknowledging concerns over the medical situation, he added, “We need to demonstrate more concrete measures against epidemics. We need to make even more effort (to reduce the scale of the games).”

Separately on Thursday, Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, vowed to protect the health of athletes from across the world when they gather in Japan for the games, due to open on July 23 following a one-year postponement.

“We will be fully prepared with our infection prevention measures. So please be at ease in coming (to Japan),” Hashimoto said during an event in Tokyo, adding the organizing committee “will protect the health of all athletes.”

A total of about 15,000 athletes will participate in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

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