Malta has no plans to prioritise potential athletes for the coronavirus vaccine ahead of the Olympic Games.
The current vaccine rollout strategy includes inoculating elderly and healthcare workers as part of the first few cohorts with less vulnerable people falling down the priority list.
As such, young, healthy athletes competing for a spot at the Olympics will be among the final few to receive the vaccine, putting their chance of flying to Tokyo to participate in the Summer Games at risk.
“The priority is to vaccinate the elderly, all those living in institutions, healthcare workers, the vulnerable and all frontliners,” a Health Ministry spokesperson told Lovin Malta.
Earlier this month, prominent International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said Olympic athletes should be given priority access to coronavirus vaccines to save the Tokyo Games from cancellation.
“In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 hundred athletes – to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that,” he told Sky News.
Last week, teachers were bumped up the COVID-19 vaccine list following an agreement reached between educators and government in light of a union strike. They will be vaccinated after the elderly and vulnerable.
However, there are no plans to do the same for Maltese athletes yet.
“We spoke to health authorities, for now they’re not giving priority to anybody. It’s a question of wait and see. Personally, I respect their decision,” Ivan Balzan, the Director of Sport at the Malta Olympic Committee, told Lovin Malta
“It is imperative to strictly follow the advice of the local health authorities. While acknowledging the fact that there are countries in which sporting bodies are pushing forward for the vaccination of athletes, I believe that this should never be done at the expense of vulnerable people,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Sports, Clifton Grima.
Malta will be sending “no more than six” potential Olympic athletes to the Games this summer, but exactly who is yet to be decided.
“We’ll find out who will be competing at the end of May/ beginning of June,” Balzan continued.
A small selection of the best athletes from a list of 24 will be chosen to compete this year. The question isn’t who will be chosen but if they will be able to compete given EU-wide discussions to potentially introduce a COVID-19 vaccine passport for travels.
That proves problematic for Malta’s current COVID-19 vaccine timeline which forecasts that Malta will achieve herd immunity by summertime. The Olympic Games is scheduled to begin on 23rd July.
Another issue is that Japan has declared a one-month state of emergency for Tokyo following a surge in coronavirus cases, putting the whole Games on shaky grounds.
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