The first of Australia’s Tokyo-bound athletes could receive their COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, after National Cabinet agreed to fast-track access for the 2,000-strong team and support crew.
- Australia’s Olympians will be included in phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout
- The country’s Olympic committee chief says this provides certainty for athletes
- The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in July and August
Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) chief executive Matt Carroll described the decision as a “great relief” for the Olympians and their families.
“It’s a weight off their minds, they know with a vaccination they’ll be safer from a health point of view and they’ll now be able to really concentrate on the Games,” he told the ABC.
With the Olympic Games set to begin on July 23, National Cabinet approved Team Australia’s inclusion in phase 1B of the rollout meaning 2,050 athletes and officials will now be eligible for a Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine.
Mr Carroll said despite frustrations with the sluggish rollout, the AOC had not faced any resistance or pushback to its request for athletes to be given access to the vaccines now.
“The Australian Olympic Team and Paralympic Team are going to Tokyo, the rest of the world is going to be there at high risk,” he said.
“They’re representing Australia.
“It’s like other Australians working for government who are travelling overseas and are being vaccinated as well.”
Mr Carroll said while he hoped the vaccine program “would commence next week”, enabling the team to go to Tokyo, planning for their return was still underway.
Given that the athletes and officials will have been vaccinated, Mr Carroll said the AOC was keen to negotiate a “bespoke” quarantine arrangement with the states and territories.
“It’ll still be 14 days, it still has to be quarantine but a more bespoke one,” he said.
“They’ll all be vaccinated so we’re seeing what tweaks we can make to make that a happier occasion, so to speak.
“It will have been a pretty vigorous and stressful time so we’re trying to work that through and ensure we don’t put a load on the public [hotel quarantine] system.”
But Federal Sport Minister Richard Colbeck said he expected athletes would do hotel quarantine like most other returned Australians.
“The Olympians and the Olympic movement don’t want to take up the very scarce places that are available in hotel quarantine, they don’t want to put other people out of the queue so they’re looking to design something for themselves,” he said.
“I did hear some reports earlier that they were looking for an AFL-hub-style exercise.
“But given the probability that there will be coronavirus at the Olympics and at the Paralympics, I don’t think it would be acceptable in any sense that they didn’t undergo a full 14-day quarantine, with all of the measures around that to protect the rest of the Australian community.”
As of Monday, nearly two million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Australia.