COC has spoken to federal government about COVID-19 shots for Canadian Olympians

·3 min read

The Canadian Olympic Committee has spoken to the federal government about having Team Canada vaccinated prior to going to the Tokyo Olympics.

In an interview with Ian Hanomansing, host of The National, COC boss David Shoemaker said he's told the government it is the International Olympic Committee's "desire" to have the team vaccinated ahead of the Games, scheduled to begin on July 23.

"We've spoken to the government and relayed the IOC's desire for us to have our team vaccinated prior to going to Tokyo. They've recognized that we've got a need," Shoemaker said.

"Certainly when athletes and all Canadians want to travel internationally under these circumstances, a vaccine would be preferable."

The full interview can be seen Friday night on The National at 9 p.m. ET.

Two days ago, Shoemaker took to Twitter regarding the vaccination issue, saying:

"As for vaccines, frontline workers and vulnerable individuals must continue to have prioritized access to Canada's supply. We continue to plan on the assumption that vaccines may not be widely available to our athletes prior to the Games."

When asked by Hanomansing after his response about where Shoemaker felt Canadian athletes would fall in the vaccination queue, Shoemaker wouldn't speculate.

"Those most vulnerable, the frontline workers, have to come first and then we'll see. But it will depend on so much, including what's available and how quickly the provinces have been able to vaccinate Canadians," he said.

WATCH | COC boss speaks to The National:

Pound suggests Olympians jump vaccine queue

Shoemaker's comments come just weeks after longtime Canadian IOC member Dick Pound suggested athletes must be given priority access to the coronavirus vaccine. That suggestion did not sit well with a number of Canadian Olympic champions.

"I want to represent Canada in Tokyo. I want to continue to inspire the next generation of young boys and girls. But I need my community to be safe first and that means a measured, risk-based vaccination plan," 2016 Olympic gold-medal wrestling champion Erica Wiebe tweeted earlier this month.

Speculating that there would be no public outcry if athletes jumped the queue, Pound argued that, "the most realistic way" of ensuring that the Tokyo Olympics could safely forge ahead was for athletes to be prioritized.

Wiebe wasn't buying it.

"I think the Olympic movement stands in its purity for a lot more than just putting athletes on stage to entertain the world," she said. "The most important people that need to get the vaccine are front-line workers; those most at risk and people in long-term care homes — they are the ones that need to be prioritized."

Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics Kyle Shewfelt also scoffed on the suggestion athletes should get vaccines before others.

"They're already healthy, they're in an age bracket that hasn't been shown to be super vulnerable to fatal outcomes from this disease," said the Calgary native.

"From a moral standpoint, it doesn't sit right [with me]."

WATCH | Olympian DeBues-Stafford talks importance of vaccines:

Israel, Denmark will vaccinate their athletes

Several countries, including Israel and Denmark, have already said they would vaccinate their athletes and staff against COVID-19 ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The Belgian Olympic Committee (BOIC) has asked its government for "400 to 500" vaccines for Olympic athletes and their entourage to travel to the Tokyo Games but insists it is not asking for preferential treatment.

The British Olympic Association, as well as the United States Olympic Committee, have made it quite clear athletes will not be jumping the queues to get vaccines and that the priority remains with the most vulnerable.

As for the IOC, President Thomas Bach has said that although participants will be encouraged to get vaccinated, it will not be mandatory.

"The health and safety of all participants is paramount. And we'll be guided by the Chief Medical Officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee and public health officials here in Canada on how we make those determinations," Shoemaker said.