The first athletes residing in Brazil who will represent the country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games started being vaccinated against Covid-19 this Friday, the 14th, at the Army Physical Training Center (CCFEx), in Urca, southern zone of Rio de Janeiro. It is a joint action between the Ministries of Defense, Health, and Citizenship, with the coordination of the Brazil Olympic Committee (BOC) and the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (BPC). It will allow the immunization of about 1,800 professionals who will travel to Japan, including athletes and other accredited personnel.
The Team Brazil vaccination is part of the Federal Government's National Immunization Plan (PNI). It guarantees more than seven thousand extra doses to the Brazilian population, immunizing 3,600 people. This action will not cost the country anything, thanks to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) donation of vaccines from the pharmaceutical companies Sinovac and Pfizer.
"We are very pleased to be able to go to the Games immunized and still offer these additional doses to Brazilians. We have a responsibility to vaccinate and protect our athletes by accepting this donation from the IOC. We hope that everyone can get vaccinated", said BOC president Paulo Wanderley Teixeira, who attended the event.
Besides him, the Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, the Special Secretary of Sports of the Ministry of Citizenship, Marcelo Magalhães, the Director of the Military Sports Department of the Ministry of Defense, Major Brigadier Isaias Carvalho, and the National Secretary of High-Performance Sports, Bruno Souza, also participated in the vaccination kick-off. Queiroga, who is a physician, was responsible for administering the first vaccines to Brazilian athletes.
"Japan is a very developed country, it is stipulating safe protocols, and we need alternatives to live safely in this pandemic environment. One of them is vaccination. The Olympic Games will be different from what they were in Brazil, and we will learn to live with health issues safely," said Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga.
The first athletes vaccinated were Ana Marcela Cunha, world champion in aquatic marathons; Rosângela Santos, Olympic medalist in athletics; Larissa Oliveira, swimmer ten-time Pan-American Games medalist; Marcus D'Almeida, Pan-American vice-champion in archery; and Michel Pessanha, Paralympic rower. On this first day, 281 vaccines will be applied, 179 in São Paulo, 53 in Saquarema (RJ), and 49 in Rio de Janeiro. Optional vaccination continues this Saturday at all three locations.
"If the athletes didn't exist, these vaccines might not make it to Brazil. Millions of people want this vaccine, but I feel that the sport is doing its part. For each dose received by us, another two will be donated to SUS, to society," said Marcus D'Almeida.
"Being able to take this vaccine brings much security. We will take the second dose in three weeks, and then we will arrive in Japan without any major problems. I am thrilled to represent the Brazilian delegation, and now it's time to go to Tokyo in search of medals," Ana Marcela added.
Starting on Monday, the action will extend to Brasília, Fortaleza, and Porto Alegre, arriving in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday, according to the logistics established by the Ministry of Defense. The second dose of the vaccine will be applied from June 7 to 11, 25 days before the first departure to Japan and 43 days before the Olympic Games opening. The agreement will also benefit the participants of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, which will take place from August 24th to September 5th.
The vaccines will be replenished by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has offered doses to all National Olympic Committees, and enough vaccines to immunize two more citizens of the countries benefiting from the donation. The delegation was included in the PNI based on a technical note from the Ministry of Health, ensuring no damage to the schedule for the general population.
In early March, IOC President Thomas Bach reported that China had offered vaccines to all athletes and officials participating in the Tokyo Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Several countries have informed the intention or have already started immunizing their delegations within their national immunization programs, such as Germany, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and New Zealand.
The IOC has recently stated that it believes in the mass vaccination of athletes. However, it is not a requirement of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee or the IOC to participate in the Games. It will be important in creating a safer environment in Tokyo.