Olympic host Japan will not take part in China vaccine offer

TOKYO (AP) — Japan will not take part in China’s offer — accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) — to provide vaccines for “participants” in the postponed Tokyo Games and next year’s Beijing Winter Games.

Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa said on Friday that Japan had not been consulted by the IOC about the Chinese vaccines, and that Japanese athletes would not take them. She said the vaccines have not been approved for use in Japan.

“We have been taking comprehensive anti-infectious disease measures for the Tokyo Games in order to allow participation without vaccinations,” Marukawa said. “There is no change to our principle of not making vaccinations a prerequisite.”

The IOC has indicated it is a sports body and will not meddle in domestic issues in China.

The IOC initially said it would not require athletes to get vaccines, but only encourage it. The deal with China puts more emphasis on getting vaccines to young, healthy athletes and others. The IOC has said it will pay for the vaccines but gave no indication of the
cost or quantity.

President of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organising Committee Seiko Hashimoto. PHOTO: AP

Marukawa pointed out that the Olympics are being held as if vaccines are not available, relying on testing, masks, social distancing and keeping athletes in a “bubble”.

Distribution of China’s vaccine will be through international agencies or existing vaccine agreements countries have with China, Bach said.

The IOC clarified on Friday that athletes in countries which have not authorised Chinese vaccines for use could not benefit from the programme.

“This offer will really only apply to (national Olympic committees) in territories where the Chinese vaccination has been approved by their national health authorities,” said James MacLeod, the IOC official who works with those Olympic bodies.

China, where the COVID-19 outbreak emerged in late 2019, has actively engaged in vaccine diplomacy, using doses developed by Sinovac and Sinopharm.

Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee President Seiko Hashimoto, in a news conference on Friday, said people coming to Japan with vaccinations might help reassure a skeptical public. About 80 per cent of Japanese in recent polls said the Olympics should be postponed or cancelled and almost as many do not want fans from abroad.

Hashimoto said again that the decision on fans from overseas will be made before the torch relay begins on March 25.