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The decision for the national cabinet to fast track all Olympic and Paralympic athletes the Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the Tokyo Games has sparked fierce backlash.
The national cabinet agreed on Tuesday up to 2,050 nominated athletes and officials heading to Tokyo will jump the queue and get the vaccination before July and August.
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Originally, most would would have fallen under category 2b of the national vaccine rollout, which would make them eligible for the vaccine later in 2021.
But the cabinet's decision will allow all nominated athletes to become eligible in the current vaccine rollout.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) chief Matt Carroll said the added layer of protection would be a relief to athletes.
"There will be hundreds of very grateful athletes, coaches and their families relieved to know that their hard work over five years has been worth it," he said in a statement.
"This added layer of assurance is what they were seeking."
The decision was handed down after Japan declared a virus state of emergency in Tokyo and three other regions, exactly three months before the Olympic opening ceremony, as new infections surge.
Backlash after Olympic vaccine decision
But, the move didn't sit well with many in the community who labelled the decision to hand athletes the vaccine for an overseas event as "appalling".
While others praised the decision for the athletes that have waited five years for the global event.
The athletes and staff in accepting vaccines ahead of our most vulnerable and the HCWs that keep us all safe have shown zero integrity and should be condemned for their selfishness. Appalling decision by all involved.
— mark stewart (@mstewart999) April 27, 2021
Kinda think being upset at the 1500 Olympic athletes we are vaccinating to send to Tokyo and not the Government that didn't secure anywhere near enough vaccines for, you know, the entire country, is just a tad off target
— David Milner (@DaveMilbo) April 27, 2021
I swear, if the AU government authorizes giving vaccines to **Olympic athletes** before every single teacher and nurse in AU is offered the vaccine, I’m going to flip my lid. I cannot imagine anything that should be a lower priority right now than the Olympics.
— Russell Keith-Magee (@freakboy3742) April 27, 2021
The Olympics during a pandemic is lunacy. Vaccinating athletes ahead of healthcare workers, the disabled and disability workers and those with underlying conditions is a disgrace.
— Rebecca Young (@BexualFeeling) April 27, 2021
How is it that athletes get the vaccine before vulnerable people? This is a disgrace. A global pandemic and they want to go to the Olympics? Utter selfishness! #auspol #Olympics https://t.co/zMMCukuKWq
— Dr Watson’s Cat (@DrWatsonscat) April 27, 2021
— Al Opinionated (@Tifosipazzi) April 27, 2021
The health minister added it was important the Olympic and Paralympic athletes were safe abroad.
"We want to see our athletes head to Tokyo to compete and then return to Australia safely," Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday.
Tokyo in state of emergency
The measures will be stricter than Japan's last state of emergency, imposed in parts of the country from January, but still fall short of the harsh lockdowns seen in some parts of the world.
"We have a strong sense of crisis," Japan's minister for virus response Yasutoshi Nishimura said.
The measures will ask businesses serving alcohol to shut or stop serving alcohol between April 25 to May 11, and also shutter major commercial facilities such as shopping malls and department stores.
Japan has seen a comparatively small Covid-19 outbreak, with fewer than 10,000 deaths despite never imposing the strict lockdowns seen in other countries.
But cases surged over winter and have rebounded after the previous state of emergency was lifted in March.
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