Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

Why some athletes at the Tokyo Olympics won't be vaccinated

Olympic organizers have made a series of major, last-minute policy changes to reduce the risk of a superspreader event, but they declined to employ one particularly powerful tool: a vaccine mandate.

The big picture: Mandatory vaccinations would have been a massive logistical and ethical puzzle. But without one, the threat of infection will loom over the Olympic Village and could ultimately extend well beyond it.

State of play: The U.S. Olympic team is requiring coaches and support staff to be vaccinated, but not athletes.

  • Swimmer Michael Andrew said he'd declined the shot, fearing it could impact his performance. Other athletes have also expressed reservations, though many did elect to be vaccinated.

While supply was not an issue for U.S. athletes, it is for many countries participating in the Games.

  • Countries like Venezuela and Nigeria, for example, are sending large delegations to Tokyo but currently have less than 1% of their populations fully vaccinated.
  • That has generated debates about whether Olympic athletes should be prioritized over at-risk populations, particularly after Australia elected in April to set aside scarce doses for athletes.
  • International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has spoken out against the idea of athletes "jumping the queue."

Still, steps have been taken to increase access for athletes.

  • Panam Sports offered to fly athletes from around the Americas to two vaccination hubs in the U.S. before they traveled on to Tokyo.
  • Pfizer pledged in May to donate doses for Olympics athletes. But that would require shipping them around the world, in many cases to countries that aren't administering Pfizer (the athletes won't arrive in Japan early enough to get both doses there). Pfizer declined to comment on how many doses actually reached athletes.
  • The Chinese Olympic Committee made a similar promise in March for athletes competing in Tokyo this year or the Beijing Winter Games in 2022. Again, it's unclear how many shots were actually given.

Between the lines: Some athletes will almost certainly arrive in Tokyo without having had the opportunity to get vaccinated.

What they're saying: An IOC spokesperson told Axios that around 85% of the individuals traveling to Tokyo in official delegations will be vaccinated, but did not specify the vaccination rate among athletes.

  • Nearly all IOC staff traveling to Tokyo will be vaccinated, along with 70–80% of media members, per the spokesperson.
  • The decision to ban spectators will also reduce the risk of outbreaks spreading into the community. But there will still be thousands of volunteers and local workers, not all of whom will be vaccinated.

What to watch: Infectious disease experts told Axios' Tina Reed that the Olympics' protocols for testing and ventilation fall well short of those employed by leagues like the NBA and NFL.

  • Athletes will also have a disincentive to report symptoms, said Annie Sparrow, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
  • “No one is going to want to say, ‘Oh, I might have COVID’ if it means they might be excluded from competition," Sparrow noted.

Go deeper: Experts fear Olympics could be a superspreader event

Vaccine mandates are suddenly much more popular

State governments, private businesses and even part of the federal government are suddenly embracing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for their employees.

Why it matters: Vaccine mandates have been relatively uncommon in the U.S. But with vaccination rates stagnating and the Delta variant driving yet another wave of cases, there's been a new groundswell of support for such requirements.

Keep reading... Show less

American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

Team USA's Carissa Moore won gold in the first-ever Olympic women's surfing final, at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.

The big picture: Brazil's Italo Ferreira won the gold medal in the inaugural men's Olympic surfing contest. The finals were brought forward a day due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nepartak.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Activist Tong Ying-kit found guilty of terrorism in first Hong Kong security law trial

Tong Ying-kit, the first person to be charged and tried under Hong Kong's national security law was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession by three judges Tuesday, per Bloomberg.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic tennis tournament in Tokyo

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka was eliminated from the Olympics after losing her Tokyo tennis tournament match 6-1, 6-4 in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Extreme drought pushes 2 major U.S. lakes to historic lows

Two significant U.S. lakes, one of which is a major reservoir, are experiencing historic lows amid a drought that scientists have linked to climate change.

What's happening: Lake Powell, the second largest reservoir in the U.S., has fallen 3,554 feet in elevation, leaving the crucial reservoir on the Colorado River, at 33% capacity — the lowest since it was filled over half a century ago, new U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data shows.

Keep reading... Show less

North and South Korea restart hotline and pledge to improve ties

North and South Korea's leaders have pledged to improve relations and resumed previously suspended communication channels between the two countries, per Reuters.

Details: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to "restore mutual confidence and develop their relationships again as soon as possible," South Korea's Blue House spokesperson Park Soo Hyun said in a televised briefing, AP notes.

  • This followed an exchange of letters between the two leaders since April.

Go deeper: Kim Jong Un says prepare for "dialogue and confrontation" with U.S.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

U.S. teen Lydia Jacoby wins Olympic gold medal in 100m breaststroke at Tokyo Games

Team USA's 17-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby has won the Olympic gold medal in the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Games.

Of note: The Alaskan is the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, and she beat Lilly King into second place.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Pelosi expected to extend proxy voting as Delta variant surges

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to extend proxy voting through the fall — and potentially until the end of the year — Democratic lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has alarmed both members and staffers anxious about interacting with the unvaccinated. Pelosi’s anticipated move — continuing an emergency COVID-19 measure enacted last year so lawmakers could vote remotely — is aimed at allaying those concerns.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories