Is it time to start the vaccination drive for Tokyo Olympics bound athletes?
The Sports Minister, Kiren Rijiju has maintained that the Olympic bound athletes would be given a chance to get vaccinated before their departure.
India has been at the forefront of the global vaccination drive against the coronavirus. The country's 'Vaccine Maitri' initiative has earned praise from all across the globe, with politicians and diplomats from all over the world thanking the country.
While India's effort in helping the world did earn a lot of global recognition, all this is happening at a time when the country itself is facing a second wave of the virus. Amidst the thousands of cases that are being reported daily in the country, one specific incident shook the entire sporting fraternity of the country a couple of days back.
This was when a total of 30 athletes – 26 from National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala and 4 from Sports Authority of India (SAI), Bengaluru tested positive for the virus on the same day. Though, thankfully none of these athletes is to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics, this surely raises a question, "Is it time to start vaccinating the athletes who have already qualified for the Olympics?"
Surely, athletes being tested positive in such large numbers at places like NIS and SAI centres is a scary sign. This does raise eyebrows regarding the health and safety of the athletes who are to represent India at the Olympics in a little over three months' time.
Though the Youth Affairs and Sports Minister, Kiren Rijiju has maintained that the Olympics bound athletes would be given a chance to get vaccinated, the drive has not yet started. He had further reiterated that the athletes may have their own apprehensions and it would be their individual choice as to whether to get vaccinated or not.
Freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia is one of the Tokyo-bound athletes who is known to have taken the vaccine. "I followed the procedure which has been laid out for common man. I had registered for it. I am feeling ok, there was a slight headache and heaviness after I took the shot but I am perfectly alright now," the 27-year-old Punia had said in a media interaction last month.
Olympic-bound Indian archers, who are based at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, will get their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine next week before leaving for the upcoming World Cup Stage I in Guatemala City. Everyone in the 16-member senior Indian contingent, including the coaches and support staff have been administered the first dose of vaccine.
At a time when the cases are on a rise yet again in the country, the only way to stay protected is by taking the vaccine. Though the government has currently set the age limit for getting vaccinated at 45 years and above, it would not be a bad idea to open up the vaccination drive for the younger Tokyo bound athletes.