IOC urges Olympic teams to ask for Chinese vaccines ahead of Beijing Games
Vaccination is encouraged but not mandatory for 2022 Olympics, which open Feb. 4
Olympic teams were urged Friday by the IOC to request more Chinese and Pfizer vaccines ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, which will be held in the country where the coronavirus outbreak started.
The International Olympic Committee first announced a vaccine rollout program with Chinese authorities for athletes and officials in March. Chinese vaccines were bought by the IOC and also made available for delegations heading to the Tokyo Olympics from countries which had approved them for use.
In May, vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech donated doses of their product to Tokyo Olympic teams. That scheme has now been extended to include Beijing, the IOC said Friday.
About 100 countries are likely to compete at the Beijing Olympics, which open Feb. 4. There were 205 national teams in Tokyo. Vaccination is encouraged but not mandatory.
Health officials in China said this week that more than 1 billion people, or 72 per cent of the country's 1.4 billion citizens, have been fully vaccinated.
Still, the Beijing Games are expected to be organized within the same health security limits that applied for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
WATCH | Pandemic, human rights are hot topics ahead of Beijing Olympics:
Bach noted the "excellent cooperation that we are enjoying with our Chinese partners and friends, as well as the relevant Chinese health authorities."
Activists have tried to brand it the "Genocide Games" because of China's detention of Muslim minority Uyghur people in prison camps in Xinjiang province.
Bach has consistently said the IOC is a politically neutral sports organization which cannot address issues that not even the United Nations has solved.
His letter was published on the day Beijing organizers unveiled their Games slogan "Together for a Shared Future."