Team USA to mandate COVID vaccine for athletes attending Winter Games: ‘Pandemic is far from over’
Team USA Olympians hoping to attend the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year will have to be fully vaccinated by December, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced Tuesday.
USOPC announced on its website that all employers, athletes and contractors will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1 in order to gain access to Olympic training facilities and that “all Team USA delegation members or hopefuls for future Games” must be fully vaccinated by Dec.1.
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“The health and well-being of our Olympic and Paralympic community continues to be a top priority. This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and optimal service to athletes.”
Team USA will allow for medical or religious exemptions and those granted them must undergo daily testing for any Olympic-related events or activities and follow strict safety protocols.
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“The stark reality is that this pandemic is far from over,” CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter obtained by the Associated Press. “This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and service to athletes.”
The International Olympic Committee has been encouraging vaccines but did not require them for athletes who competed in the Summer Olympics. The USOPC followed that in strongly recommending the vaccines but not requiring them.
Earlier this year, around 83% of the more than 600 American athletes who qualified for Tokyo got the shots in time for the Summer Games, according to the USOPC’s final count. The IOC estimated about 85% of all athletes in the Olympic village had been vaccinated.
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U.S. swimmer Michael Andrew was among the most vocal about his decision not to get the vaccine ahead of the Summer Games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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