25 Mar 2021

Top athletes get COVID-19 vaccination priority

8:06 am on 25 March 2021

New Zealand leading athletes will be able to jump the COVID-19 vaccination queue so they can compete at international sporting events but they will still have to undergo two weeks of quarantine on their return.

The government has announced strict criteria for early vaccinations with sportspeople among those eligible to apply.

Those most immediately affected will be athletes who're selected to compete at July's Tokyo Olympics.

Several national sporting bodies, including the New Zealand Olympic Committee, have been lobbying the government for athletes to be given preferential treatment.

The secretary general of the New Zealand Olympic Committee Kereyn Smith said they're they're grateful for the decision but it won't be mandatory for athletes to get the jab.

NZOC CEO - Kereyn Smith.

NZOC's Kereyn Smith. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"It's not mandatory but we feel its a very positive and important step in keeping our athletes safe in an environment where they will be with 10,500 athletes from around 206 different countries so we feel for their own personal well being and that of their teamates it would be a very very important step (to get vaccinated)," she said.

Smith said a number of athlete's had been "hanging on the edge of their seats thinking can I get off shore to either compete for my final qualification or prepare safely for the Games so it is very very welcome news for them."

The NZOC is now awaiting timelines around when athletes might be able to be vaccinated.

Even if they are vaccinated athletes returning from overseas competitions will still have to undergo two weeks of qurarantine when they return to the country.

"That's the planning model we are working to (around the Olympics) ..if that was to shorten for any reason that would be welcomed ..but athletes are certainly familiar with the requirements."

Israel, Serbia, Hungary and Lithuania are some of the countries who have already begun vaccinating Olympic bound athletes.