The International Olympic Committee is expected to provide COVID-19 vaccines for about 20,000 people in Japan who are set to compete or work at this summer's Tokyo Games to improve the safety of the global sporting event to be held during the coronavirus pandemic, an official with knowledge of the matter said Monday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the vaccines are likely to be offered for free to the athletes and staff in Japan, where inoculations have lagged far behind other developed countries and the large majority of people have yet to be vaccinated.
About 2,500 Japanese Olympic and Paralympic athletes are estimated to need COVID-19 vaccines.
The staff members who will have access to the vaccines, developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE, are those who will come into close contact with athletes, possibly including some of the volunteers, interpreters and referees, according to the official.
While Japanese organizers have said vaccinations are not required for people to participate in the Tokyo Games, the IOC said earlier this month that the Pfizer vaccine will be provided to Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
The organizers, which may announce the plan as early as Tuesday, will work out the specifics regarding the vaccine, which is administered in two shots a few weeks apart.
The Japanese Olympic Committee has been preparing to begin inoculating athletes on June 1 at the National Training Center in Tokyo, according to a source familiar with the planning.
IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday he expects over 80 percent of the residents of the athletes' village during the Olympics and Paralympics will be vaccinated and expressed confidence that the games can be held safely.
Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Japanese organizing committee, said at a press conference on Friday that providing COVID-19 shots to Tokyo Games officials and workers would be under consideration if Japan can secure more shots.
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which will be held following an unprecedented one-year postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, will feature about 15,000 athletes from around the world.