TOKYO – Five of six American athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics have been vaccinated against Covid-19, the team’s top doctor revealed on Friday just before the official start of the Games.
This information was taken from the medical histories that 567 of the athletes filled out before leaving for Japan, said Dr Jonathan Finnoff, who estimated that 83% of those competitors were fully vaccinated.
“Eighty-three percent is actually a substantial number, and we’re very happy with it,” said Finnoff, medical chief of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
That’s higher than the national rate, with about 56% of Americans having received at least one dose of a vaccine. But that still means that about 100 of the total contingent of 613 U.S. athletes have yet to be vaccinated.
The news came as the opening ceremony for the pandemic-affected Games began at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, marking the official launch of the global sporting event.
Covid safety rules will continue to apply to all athletes, whether or not they are vaccinated.
“The best thing to do is to assume everyone is at risk and reduce the risk by introducing Covid mitigation measures that we know are working,” Finnoff said.
So far, beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb and gymnastics substitute Kara Eaker are the only American athletes known to have tested positive.
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In total, the International Olympic Committee has reported 13 Covid infections among all athletes in Japan. And the IOC estimates that 85 percent of athletes and staff living in the Olympic Village are vaccinated.
Much of the Japanese public continues to oppose holding the games in Tokyo, in part out of fears that the arriving athletes will exacerbate the Covid crisis in their country.
But the US Olympic team is at least overtaking the host country when it comes to vaccinations.
Japan’s national vaccination rate was only 23.2% on Friday, according to the latest statistics.
While the IOC did not require athletes to be fully vaccinated against Covid to participate in the Games, other sports organizations are starting to put pressure on vaccine-resistant stars.
The National Football League on Thursday warned teams they risk losing a game – and players could lose a weekly paycheck – if a Covid outbreak among unvaccinated players forces officials to cancel a game.