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Olympians should have access to COVID vaccine, says Campbell

Frontline health workers and vulnerable parts of the community, including those in aged care homes, will be at the top of the list to get the two-step immunisation. Normally, healthy, ultra-fit Olympians would be well down the pecking order given their low-risk demographic.

Around 500 doses of the vaccine would have to be set aside for Australia’s Olympic team over coming months, with Campbell saying that if it becomes a prerequisite to compete, the doses should be made available.

“If it’s a prerequisite, then I think we should get some sort of priority. If it’s not a prerequisite, we should be able to choose whether we get it before or after the Olympics. They are preparing for the Games as if there were no vaccine and whether or not athletes are vaccinated, I still think they would be able to compete,” Campbell said.

“It’s a tough one. I think athletes have sacrificed a lot to represent Australia and if we look back on the year, I think we can appreciate how much sport brings to Australia. It’s part of our culture and our identity. In that case, I think that if it is a prerequisite to compete, then athletes should be able to get access to the vaccine.

“Frontline healthcare workers obviously have to be at the front of the queue because they are exposed to this all the time. So I’m not saying we go in front of anyone like that or the high-risk or elderly. But if we require the vaccine to do our job, I’d hope that would be made available before the Games. Working from home isn’t an option.”

The matter of vaccine roll-outs has become a tricky issue for the IOC and Olympic federations around the world, with officials treading a very fine line between agitating on behalf of their athletes and being seen to ‘jump the queue’ over more vulnerable parts of the community.

Long-serving IOC member Dick Pound told Sky News that he didn’t believe taking 400 vaccines out of millions in Canada would cause an outcry, especially if it mean the difference between sending an Olympic team to Japan or staying at home.

“In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 athletes – to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that,” Pound said.

“It’s a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead.”

The AOC has yet to state its case publicly but the British Olympic Association and UK Sport told The Guardian the most vulnerable parts of the population deserved priority and they hoped there was still the chance for athletes to be vaccinated once that phase was completed.

Campbell said the AOC Athletes’ Commission had yet to officially meet this year but it would be on their agenda. In the meantime, she said Australia’s chef de mission Ian Chesterman had been in regular contact as the AOC tries to plan things down to the second to ensure the safety of competitors.


Even if a vaccine were made available, Campbell said she still had questions about potential side effects and the possibility of it affecting performance, even to a fraction of a per cent. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Authority, said it was continuing studies on the multiple vaccines but did not believe any would contravene anti-doping rules.

Campbell is unlikely to be alone among elite athletes in wanting more information on the vaccine and said she would seek out leading sports doctors ahead of any injection, just like she would with any other vaccine or medical treatment.

“I would like to see more medical data before I go getting a vaccine. As athletes, we have to be incredible careful about things we put in our bodies, because we push our bodies to the final couple of per cent. Anything that could possibly interfere with that, if there were any side effects, I would want to make sure that was a very, very low risk before I took the vaccine,” Campbell said.

“I would want to speak to some very specialised sport doctors before I get the vaccine. When I get the flu vaccine, for example, I would then have a couple of weeks when I take it a little easier in training. But I will listen to medical advice. If the only way to go the Olympics was to get a vaccine, I would get the vaccine.”

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