WHO, asked about COVID-19 shots for Olympic athletes, says health workers are top priority

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FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside a building of the WHO in Geneva

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization is providing risk management advice to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese authorities regarding the holding of the Tokyo Olympics, but the top priority is vaccinating health workers worldwide against COVID-19, its top emergency expert said on Monday.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is sticking to his government's commitment to host the Summer Games, with officials last week dismissing a report in Britain's Times newspaper that said Tokyo had abandoned hope of holding the event this year.

Mike Ryan, asked whether athletes should be vaccinated as a priority, told a WHO news briefing: "We have to face the realities of what we face now. There is not enough vaccine right now to even serve those who are most at risk.

"We face a crisis now on a global scale that requires frontline health workers, those older people and those most vulnerable in our societies to access vaccine first."

The Games is scheduled to open on July 23, after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WHO would work with the Lausanne-based IOC, the host city Tokyo and Japan's ministry of health, labour and welfare as part of their task force to "offer risk management advice right the way through the process", Ryan said.

"The final decision on the risk management measures for the Olympics, and the final decision regarding the Olympics themselves, is a decision for the IOC and the Japanese

authorities," he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, John Miller and Emma Farge; Editing by Alex Richardson)