A statement from Thomas Bach, the I.O.C. president, reinforced the expression of concern.
“This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” the statement said.
In March, China agreed to provide vaccines for Olympic participants. But China’s vaccines are still not approved in many countries, and several — including Japan — said they would not accept the offer for its Olympians.
Bach acknowledged that accepting the vaccine would still be voluntary, even as he urged competitors to take part. “We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” he said.
Jonathan Finnoff, chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said the vaccine donation agreement could have a significant effect worldwide, particularly for athletes in countries where vaccination campaigns have barely gotten off the ground.
“While the vaccines are available here in the U.S., around the world they aren’t,” he said, “and many, many teams have no access to vaccines.”
Aside from issues of access, Olympic and national officials are also working on education campaigns for athletes who might hesitate to be vaccinated.
In this regard, Finnoff said, the American athletes are comparable to the general population.
On one hand, he said, there are those who take the virus seriously and want to get the vaccine. “And then there other people who don’t believe that the virus exists and that it’s a global conspiracy and that the vaccine is a tracking device,” he said.