Japan denies report that it plans to prioritize vaccines for Olympic athletes

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Japan said Thursday it is not currently seeking to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for Olympic athletes, dismissing a media report that has sparked an outcry on social media as the country’s vaccines lag behind. other big savings.

Only one million people have received the first dose of Pfizer vaccine since February, out of a Japanese population of 126 million, and the most vulnerable elderly don’t even start getting vaccinated until next week.

New infections increased ahead of the Olympics, which are expected to start in July. Tokyo saw 545 new cases on Thursday and its governor said it would ask the central government to impose emergency measures in the capital region.

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A Kyodo News Agency report, citing government officials, said Japan had started exploring the possibility of ensuring that its Olympic and Paralympic athletes are all vaccinated by the end of June.

“Give it to my mom first,” wrote one Twitter user, adding, “The athletes are all young and healthy.”

While the government has said it will continue the Olympics as planned from July 23, a large majority of Japanese want the Games canceled or postponed again.

Outrage on social media continued despite chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato denying the report and saying the government was not seeking to prioritize athletes. “It’s really weird. Since we have no idea if even all the elderly will have received their vaccines by mid-June, are you going to have all the athletes having them? A user with the nickname “Aoiumi2” posted on Twitter.

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Others noted that Japan’s original plan prioritized medical workers, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, with ordinary citizens unlikely to get theirs until summer.

A number of test events for certain sports were recently canceled or postponed due to concerns about the pandemic, and on Tuesday, company executive Hiroshi Mikitani wrote on Twitter that hosting the Games was “risky.”

“Honestly, I think the Olympics this summer are just way too risky. I’m against them, ”wrote Mikitani, CEO of Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten Inc.

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Even so, a large part of Japanese business is still mobilized behind the Olympics. Asahi Group CEO Atsushi Katsuki said he was keen to host the Games and the main beer maker had benefited from his role as a sponsor.

“I want the Olympics and Paralympics to happen,” Katsuki said in an interview.

“It is unfortunate that the Olympics have been reduced, but that does not concern us too much,” he added.

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