USOPC to require COVID-19 vaccination for winter sports

United States Olympians attending the Tokyo Games this summer were encouraged but not required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 80 percent of them eventually got their shots.

But this option will not be available to athletes aiming to make the next round of the Games.

On Wednesday, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced that all athletes and team staff members using the organization’s training centers and facilities will be required to be fully vaccinated by November 1.

The organization also stated that any athletes representing the country at the Winter Games by 1 December, which are scheduled to begin with the Olympics in Beijing on 4 February, followed by the Paralympics on 4 March, must show their team. Proof of vaccination to be able to join the USA delegation.

The International Olympic Committee has not declared a vaccine requirement for the Beijing Games.

“The harsh reality is that this pandemic is not over,” USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter reviewed by The New York Times. “This move will enhance our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparing, and serving athletes.”

The new policy, first reported by The Associated Press, takes the USOPC a step further than the major North American professional sports leagues, none of which require athletes to be vaccinated in order to compete.

The decision reflects the seriousness of the ongoing global health crisis, as well as the looming uncertainty about such Health protocols and preventive measures Which will be deployed by Olympic and Paralympic organizers in Beijing.

Vaccines were not required for this summer’s Tokyo Games, which were postponed by a year because of the pandemic. In July, USOPC chief medical officer Jonathan Finoff said about 83 percent of US Olympians for the Tokyo Olympics had been vaccinated. And the IOC estimated that more than 80 percent of all Olympians living in the athletes’ village in Tokyo were fully vaccinated.

The USOPC’s new policy comes amid speculation about rules that will face athletes, officials, team staff members and journalists in China, where Extensive lockdown and strict quarantine Has been fairly common during the pandemic. Athletes and officials are prepared for any number of countermeasures, including the prospect of prolonged quarantine and the implementation of a so-called bubble around the Games.

As it did for the Tokyo Games, the IOC will release a so-called playbook next month detailing its preliminary rules and plans to contain the spread of the virus at the 2022 Olympics. twenty eight athletes Tested positive in Tokyo in the lead-up to the Summer Olympics and during competition, as did 13 athlete For the Paralympics in Tokyo.

The IOC created a set of rules for Olympic participants in Tokyo, governing the Games as if no one had been vaccinated. It remains to be seen whether athletes who are vaccinated in Beijing will have different privileges.

Beyond the Winter Games, the USOPC’s vaccine requirement will apply to all U.S. athletes hoping to compete in the future Paralympic Games, Pan and Paran American Games, and the Youth Olympic Games.

The organization left open the possibility for athletes to obtain medical or religious exemptions, which they would need to obtain by November 1.

Hirshland said in her letter that the policy has received support from the USOPC’s Athletes’ Advisory Council. He added that the decision was “further strengthened by the Food and Drug Administration”. pfizer vaccine approval And this Recent mandate by the federal government. “

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