SINGAPORE – The Republic’s Olympic-bound athletes believe a coronavirus vaccine will be a shot in the arm for the successful staging of the postponed Tokyo Games, and are ready to take one should it become available.
Singapore will be represented in diving, gymnastics, sailing, shooting, swimming and table tennis, while national shuttlers Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min and fencer Amita Berthier remain in the hunt for an Olympic spot.
Diver Jonathan Chan, who is set to make his Olympic debut, said: “If there is a vaccine, I’ll definitely feel safer, and it’s good to know that the organisers are trying to do all they can to keep participants safe.”
World No. 9 paddler Feng Tianwei, a three-time Olympic medallist and veteran of more than 10 major Games, shared that vaccines have been par for the course as a precaution for region-specific diseases such as the Zika virus in Brazil during the 2016 Olympics.
She added: “If there is an effective vaccine, it only makes sense for us to take it for our own healthy, safety and peace of mind.”
During this week’s trip to Tokyo, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he is “encouraging” all Olympic participants and fans to be vaccinated.
“We want to convince as many foreign participants as possible to accept a vaccine,” the 66-year-old German said on Monday (Nov 16), as he expressed confidence that the postponed Games will open on July 23.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported him as saying that athletes will not be required to take a coronavirus vaccine to compete, adding that mandatory shots would be “going too far”.
“There are too many issues to consider. This is a question of private health,” he was quoted as saying during a tour of the Olympic Village.
“It is a question also of (the) health conditions of each and every person. It’s a question of availability.”
However, the IOC will “appeal” to athletes and others to be vaccinated, Bach added, calling it a “sign of respect” for other competitors and the Japanese hosts.
Moderna had revealed on Monday that its experimental vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19, based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial.
Earlier, Pfizer’s vaccine also reported an effectiveness of more than 90 per cent, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could have two vaccines authorised for emergency use in December, with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available by the year’s end.
However, Singapore Shooting Association president Michael Vaz urged caution, and will wait for advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) before committing his athletes to Tokyo 2020, which has been delayed by a year to next July-August.
Singapore have secured one spot in the women’s 10m air rifle but are aiming to add places in the 50m rifle three positions, 25m pistol and 10m air pistol via the ISSF World Cup events in Delhi and Changwon, South Korea next March and April respectively.
Vaz said: “I’m also a parent, and our No. 1 concern is the health and safety of our athletes. We won’t force our shooters to go for any overseas events in this case, and there are no obligations or penalties if they do not wish to go.
“It is up to them and their parents to decide, and we will depend on WHO and MOH to guide us.
“I’m not a doctor and I do not know whether a reliable vaccine will be out in time for the Olympics. I hope so, and I also hope for effective treatment so that at least people can be assured they can recover from the virus even if they get it.”
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