Team GB Chef de Mission Mark England says he is “very hopeful” that all athletes and support staff will be vaccinated prior to the Tokyo Olympics, but stressed it is not a condition of travel to the Games.
The British Olympic Association confirmed to the PA news agency on Friday that the Government has agreed to cover jabs for the entirety of the travelling parties, using vaccines made available through a deal struck between the International Olympic Committee and Pfizer.
Reacting to the news, England said: “It is not just 375 athletes and 500 support staff, it is anybody who is British who is going – that is a huge number, and we will be prioritising the athletes in that.
“(But) having a vaccination is not a prerequisite for going to the Games. It is not a prerequisite from the IOC or the Tokyo government or ourselves.
“We are suggesting it is an opportunity to protect not only our own delegation but a great opportunity to protect the Japanese public as well. We are certainly encouraging that to happen.”
Britain had been in a minority of leading medal-winning nations not to promise vaccinations for athletes beyond the national roll-out, citing the importance of prioritising the vulnerable and key-workers.
However, news of the deal between the IOC and Pfizer effectively brought an end to any moral dilemma, with officials keen to stress the vaccines for athletes will come from those additional doses, rather than the existing national supply.
“We always said and we were steadfast that we would never queue-jump,” added England. “But the news that we will be vaccinated is great. So we will see how that roll-out goes, and I am very hopeful that everybody who has the opportunity will take it up.”