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WHO: Olympians should not be prioritized for coronavirus vaccine

WHO: Olympians should not be prioritized for coronavirus vaccine
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World Health Organization (WHO) officials suggested Monday that Olympic athletes should not be prioritized for coronavirus vaccinations.

Asked at a Geneva news conference whether Olympians should be fast-tracked, Michael Ryan, who serves as executive director for the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said doses should go to vulnerable and high-risk populations first.

"We face a crisis now on a global scale, that requires front-line health workers, those older people and those most vulnerable in our societies to access vaccine first," Ryan said, according to USA Today. "That doesn't in any way negate the desire or the will to have the Olympics and come together and celebrate a wonderful global sporting event, where all countries come together to share that. What a wonderful symbol those Games are for our shared humanity.”

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However, he noted that “there is not enough vaccine, right now, to even serve those who are most at risk."

"This is in every country, in every corner, in every population of the world," said Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the WHO’s director-general, according to USA Today. "There are older people everywhere. There are health care workers everywhere. We need to make sure they're protected everywhere. And right now, we have a real stretch on the available vaccines just to get into those populations and protect them."

Although the global health organization is offering guidance to organizers of the Tokyo Games and local Japanese officials, Ryan said it was ultimately up to the International Olympic Committee whether the Games take place as scheduled. The Summer Olympics, originally set for 2020, were postponed soon after the pandemic began last year.

Amid projections that Japan will not reach full herd immunity until at least the fall of this year, reports have circulated that organizers have privately concluded the Games will have to be canceled. However, Japanese officials denied these reports last week.