The Canadian Olympic Committee says it believes it will have access to donated COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer and BioNTech as part of an IOC program to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo Games.
Delivery of doses is set to begin this month to give Olympic delegations time to be fully vaccinated with a second shot before arriving in Tokyo for the Games, which open on July 23.
David Shoemaker, CEO and secretary general of the COC, says his organization will work with government agencies to confirm details of the roll-out.
"We were happy to learn from the IOC that Pfizer and BioNTech will donate vaccine doses for Tokyo 2020 Games participants. In Canada this represents approximately 1,100 people and will add an important layer of protection for Canadian athletes in the lead up to and during the Games," Shoemaker said in a statement.
"The Olympic Games hold special meaning for the millions of Canadians who will be inspired by the resilience and determination of Canadian athletes this summer in Tokyo. As most provinces begin vaccination of the general population, this announcement will help more Canadians receive vaccinations quicker."
It is unclear how many of the 1,100 people already have been vaccinated. Also, many athletes are still attempting to qualify for the Olympics.
The IOC has said athletes do not have to be vaccinated for the Games.
It’s the second major vaccination deal for the International Olympic Committee. An agreement was announced in March between the IOC and Olympic officials in China to buy and distribute Chinese vaccines ahead of the Tokyo Games and next year's Beijing Winter Games.
The new Pfizer offer gives the IOC greater coverage worldwide ahead of Tokyo with most countries — including Canada — yet to authorize emergency use of Chinese vaccines.
“We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.
The Pfizer donation followed talks between the firm’s chairman and CEO, Albert Bourla, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
“Following this conversation, the Japanese government had a meeting with the IOC and now the donation plan has been realized,” Pfizer said in a statement.
The IOC said any vaccination program must be done “in accordance with each country’s vaccination guidelines and consistent with local regulations.”
The IOC-China vaccine deal includes two doses being made available to the general public for each dose received by an Olympic participant in that country.
The Spanish Olympic Committee said Thursday the nearly 600 members of its delegation
— With files from The Associated Press
The Canadian Press