Tokyo Olympics: Pfizer, BioNTech to supply vaccines for athletes

Tokyo: As part of the plans to ensure safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE to donate doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to Games participants from National Olympic and Paralympic Committees around the world.

National Olympic Committees (NOCs) will work with their local governments to coordinate local distribution in accordance with each country’s vaccination guidelines and consistent with local regulations.

The IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) are working with the NOCs and National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) to encourage and assist their athletes, officials and Games stakeholders residing in their territories to get vaccinated in their home countries in line with national immunisation guidelines, before they go to Japan. 

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According to the organisers, based on the feedback from the NOCs and NPCs, it is expected that a significant proportion of Games participants will have been vaccinated before arriving in Japan. The new MoU adds to these efforts.

Additional doses delivered by Pfizer and BioNTech will not be taken out of existing programmes, but will be in addition to existing quotas and planned deliveries around the world.

“This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in an official statement.

“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. By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities. We would like to thank Pfizer and BioNTech for this very generous donation to support the vaccination of athletes and Games participants ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020,” he added.

Prof. Ugur Erdener, Chair of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, said: “We see the importance of vaccination all around the world. We encourage the athletes and Games participants to take the vaccine whenever possible. Vaccination is an important tool to protect not only themselves, but also their communities.”

During a conversation between Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer, and Suga Yoshihide, Prime Minister of Japan, which is the host country of Tokyo 2020, Bourla made an offer to donate the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for athletes and their delegations participating in Tokyo 2020. Following this conversation, the Japanese government had a meeting with the IOC and now the donation plan has been realised.

“With hundreds of millions of vaccines already administered, and hundreds of millions more to go, Pfizer is committed, together with BioNTech, to doing all we can to help end this pandemic and help return the world to a sense of normalcy,” Bourla said.

“The return of the Olympic and Paralympic Games represents a monumental moment of world unity and peace after a gruelling year of isolation and devastation. We are proud to play a role in providing vaccines to athletes and their national Olympic delegations where possible.”

“Providing vaccines to Games participants is one of the critical ways to help ensure the Games are as safe and successful as possible. With more than 430 million doses already delivered, our vaccine continues to help protect lives around the world and bring us back to our normal lives,” said Ugur Sahin, MD, CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech.

“This year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games are an historic moment representing the global community and how we stand together. We are honoured to be able to contribute the vaccine to support the safety of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

The announcement follows the release of the second edition of the Playbooks, which give detailed information and guidelines to the various stakeholder groups participating in the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

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