Japan are lagging behind in their vaccine roll-out, with front-line healthcare workers only beginning to receive the jab last month and just 46,500 having received a first dose at the end of last week.
Japan’s Olympics team (pictured at the Rio Olympics in 2016) have rejected the offer of Chinese coronavirus vaccinations
Tokyo 2020 bosses agreed a deal on Thursday to buy Covid-19 vaccinations from China
But Japan’s Olympics minister Tamayo Marukawa said that despite the country’s slow vaccine roll-out, they have no plans to reconsider their decision, with preparations continuing for a safe Games.
Asked if athletes should receive the vaccinations offered by China, Marukawa said: ‘I think that will be a decision for countries where (Chinese vaccines) have been approved.
‘I am not aware if any Chinese companies have applied for approval of Chinese vaccines in our country,’ she added, hinting that Japan’s athletes would not be eligible.
‘We are taking comprehensive anti-infection measures including activity management and testing so that people can feel secure about participating in the Tokyo Games, even without a vaccination.
Japan’s Olympics minister Tamayo Marukawa hinted they have no plans to reconsider
China have approved four vaccines, but have at least another eight at the human trial stage, according to the World Health Organisation.
The three most advanced are CoronaVac, developed by Sinovac, and two from state-owned Sinopharm. The fourth is CanSino – a single-dose viral vector vaccine similar to the UK’s Oxford/AstraZenica – developed with the Chinese military.
Although China has been one of the world leaders in developing vaccines, their efficacy data is not public or peer-reviewed, meaning there are concerns that they won’t be as effective as their western counterparts.
Any EU countries that buy China’s vaccines will be doing so without the European Medicines Agency’s sign-off – meaning they will be liable if anything goes wrong.
‘There is no change that we are proceeding on the assumption of people not getting vaccinations.’
The Japan Times claimed that it will take the country 126 years to vaccinate their entire population if the current rate of vaccination is maintained, although it is expected that the roll-out will gather pace in the coming months.
The Associated Press reported last month the elderly are expected to get their turn next month, after health workers but ahead of those with underlying health issues. It will be around June by the time those above the age of 16 will be eligible.
But despite the hosts’ struggles, the International Olympics Committee have now collaborated with Chinese Olympic officials to offer vaccines to athletes and teams preparing for the upcoming Games in both Tokyo and Beijing.
‘We are grateful for this offer, which is in the true Olympic spirit of solidarity,’ IOC president Thomas Bach said.
Bach said the IOC would ‘pay for extra doses’ for Olympic and Paralympic participants. The Tokyo Olympics are set to open on July 23, and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing are scheduled for February.
Heading off concerns that athletes might jump the line to get vaccinated, Bach said extra doses for the general public will be given to countries taking part in the program.
‘The IOC will pay for two doses more, which can be made available for the population in the respective country according to their needs,’ Bach said.
The British Olympic Association has also vowed not to jump the queue ahead of the Tokyo Games.
‘This is welcome news for the wider Olympic movement,’ said a Team GB spokesman.
‘Our position remains that priority should still be with the most vulnerable in our society and that there will come an appropriate time, hopefully ahead of the Olympic Games, when the athletes can be considered for vaccination.’
The IOC have now collaborated with Chinese Olympic officials to offer vaccines to athletes
Thomas Bach said the IOC would ‘pay for extra doses’ for Olympic and Paralympic participants
There is no panic from Team GB, who remain optimistic that the vaccine roll-out will reach British athletes before the Games.
Sportsmail understands no serious conversations have taken place with government about the need to fast track athletes at this stage.
The government is still on track to vaccinate all vulnerable groups and everyone over 50 – 32 million people – by April 15.
The British Olympic Association vowed back in January not to jump the queue for vaccines
In addition, the remaining population – 21m people – will receive a first does by the end of July.
As lower risk groups are vaccinated, the difficulty of bringing forward athletes for their first or second jab is likely to diminish. If the timetable slips, TeamGB may have to open discussion with government about ensuring the British team are inoculated prior to travel to Tokyo.
Distribution will be through international agencies or existing vaccine agreements countries have with China, Bach said.