Pfizer, BioNTech to donate vaccine to athletes and staff before unwanted Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics logos are on display even as the city’s governor is considering extending a state of emergency.
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics logos are on display even as the city’s governor is considering extending a state of emergency.
Image: Getty Images

Citizens of Japan may not have quick access to a vaccine, but Olympians set to descend there in July will.

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Per the IOC, Pfizer and BioNTech announced they will donate their vaccine supply to inoculate Olympians and delegations ahead of this summer’s postponed Games. The American and German companies, who teamed up to create an effective COVID vaccine, plan to start doling out shots this month in time for athletes to receive two doses before arriving in Tokyo.

I’m glad Olympians are getting the chance to get vaccinated. I hope they take it. But let’s remember that the actual people who live in Japan aren’t thrilled with the idea of hosting an international event in the midst of a global pandemic. And the county’s own vaccination rate is abysmal compared to other major countries.

In 2020, the island nation certainly managed the COVID crisis better than many of its western allies. But the country has vaccinated less than 2 percent of its population. At that rate, the general public will not be vaccinated in time for the Tokyo Games — which 70 percent of citizens already don’t want. So it’s great that the athletes will be vaxxed, buuuuut...

A recent poll from the Asahi Shimbun shows how nearly 70 percent of respondents would like the Olympics postponed again or canceled outright. The Kyodo News also found that 72 percent of citizens favor postponement or cancellation. In addition, the news agency released another survey showing how 60 percent of Japanese people dissatisfied with their vaccine rollout.

And today, tens of thousands of residents signed a petition to cancel the Games.

“We request that the Tokyo Olympics be canceled in order to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.” The document reads.

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The Japanese government also plans to extend a COVID-19 state of emergency for the city of Tokyo until the end of May in order to combat a rise in the number of COVID cases and deaths.

In other words, this is totally going great!

The IOC can offer vaccines to athletes, and Japan can bar international spectators, or close the torch relay to the public (did we mention 8 people involved in the relay tested positive for COVID?). But that’s won’t ease the legitimate fears of actual people who — again — don’t want anything to do with these Games.