(NEW YORK) — Pfizer and BioNTech will be providing COVID-19 vaccines to Olympic athletes participating in the summer games in Tokyo.
The pharmaceutical companies signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Olympic Committee on Thursday to donate doses of the vaccine to athletes and their delegations, which can consist of coaches, third-party games staff, executives, dignitaries and guests, according to a joint press release.
The companies, along with the IOC, will coordinate with National Olympic Committees around the world to address the local need for vaccines to allow delegations to participate in the games, the release states.
The decision to offer immunization to athletes and delegations will be up to each country. Delivery of initial doses to participating delegations is expected to begin at the end of May.
Vaccination is not mandatory for athletes to participate in the games. Any vaccination program must be conducted in full respect of national vaccination priorities, according to the IOC and International Paralympics Committee.
The donation of vaccines will not affect the supply for national populations, according to the agreement.
The vaccines will help keep the Olympics “safe and secure,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.
“We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” Bach said. “By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities.”
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are scheduled to begin in Tokyo on July 23. Last month, one of Japan’s top officials suggested that the games could be canceled or carried out without fans due to the pandemic.
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