U.S. drugs giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Thursday announced a deal with the International Olympics Committee to provide coronavirus vaccines to competitors and staff at the Tokyo Games. The firms said they would coordinate with national sporting bodies to make sure that vaccines are available to anyone who needs one before traveling to Japan.
Prioritizing Olympic athletes for vaccinations is a delicate issue. Australian Olympians are being vaccinated using a private contractor to avoid burdening their public health system. The U.S. Olympic committee will encourage but not oblige athletes to be inoculated, while Canada insists its delegation will be vaccinated on time without jumping the queue.
Meanwhile, with Japan’s medical system is under severe strain in many areas due to COVID-19, Olympic organizers’ request for 500 nurses has raised concerns that the games will sap vital medical resources. The Tokyo organizing committee is also seeking about 200 certified sports doctors to work as volunteers during the events.
Pandemic-driven travel restrictions and delays in qualifying have also added to the pile of logistical challenges facing anti-doping organizations. Even before COVID-19, an increase in testing was struggling to keep step with the science and ingenuity of doping, with the World Anti-Doping Agency estimating it only catches around 10% of cheats.