All Australian athletes and officials heading to the Tokyo Olympics will be fast-tracked for vaccination ahead of the games, the government has said.
More than 2,000 Olympians, Paralympians, their coaches, and support staff will get the jabs.
The summer Olympics, delayed from 2020, will open on 23 July, followed by the Paralympic Games on 24 August.
Before the govt intervention, most Australian athletes would be given the shots later within the year.
“We want to ascertain our athletes head to Tokyo to compete then return to Australia safely,” Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday.
Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said that “while vulnerable Australians remain an absolute priority because the vaccine rollout continues, National Cabinet [consisting of the prime minister and state and territory leaders] understands the pressure our high-performance athletes are facing because the Tokyo Games draw closer.
“This is going to be a different Olympics and Paralympics, but our athletes deserve the chance to compete,” the minister added.
Last week, Japan announced emergency Covid measures in Tokyo and three other areas during a bid to curb rising infections, just three months before the Olympics are due to start. They had originally been planned to start in July 2020.
The government said the state of emergency – set to last until 11 May – would be “short and powerful”.
Under the measures, bars are required to close and big sporting events will be held without spectators.
It marks the third state of emergency in Japan since the pandemic began. The country has had quite 10,000 Covid-related deaths, consistent with data compiled by America’s Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, Australia’s approach to containing the outbreak is seen by many world health experts as a hit story. The national death tally currently stands at 910, consistent with Johns Hopkins.
However, Australia has been criticized for the slow rollout of its vaccination program compared to that of other developed nations.