Israel intends to have all its athletes due to compete at the Tokyo Olympics vaccinated against COVID-19 by May, its National Olympic Committee said on Wednesday, amid global debate over whether athletes should be given priority access in the rollout.
Global coronavirus cases surpassed 100 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, as countries around the world struggle with new virus variants and vaccine shortfalls.
Israel, however, currently leads the world on per capita vaccinations, having inoculated 29% of its population with at least one dose. It has already started vaccinating all members of the population over the age of 40 as well as pregnant women and 11th and 12th graders who are due to take their matriculation exams.
"As part of the Israel vaccination for corona procedure already 50% of all the Israel Olympic athletes delegation to Tokyo have been vaccinated," a Committee spokesperson told Reuters in an email.
"By the end of May 2021, all... will be completely vaccinated against the coronavirus."
Much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections, but organizers have vowed to press ahead with the Games, which are due to open on July 23 after being postponed for a year because of the pandemic.
Some countries are hesitant to prioritize athletes over those more in need of the vaccine.
A British Olympic Association representative told Reuters they have not spoken to their athletes about vaccinations and their priority remains "vulnerable, elderly and front line workers."
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said some athletes have resisted inoculation as many raised questions about their performances being affected as a result.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has said that although participants will be encouraged to get vaccinated, it will not be mandatory.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has said that he was against the concept of compulsory vaccinations and did not like the idea of athletes taking priority ahead of vulnerable people or frontline workers.