Ukraine starts vaccinating athletes ahead of Olympics

Kiev (AFP) –


Ukraine on Thursday launched a vaccination drive to innoculate its athletes against the coronavirus ahead of the 2021 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A total of 30 athletes set to represent the ex-Soviet country in Tokyo received their first jab of China's CoronaVac vaccine in front of cameras at a hospital in the capital Kiev.

Daria Tykhova, a 35-year-old sports shooter, said her team was waiting for the vaccine impatiently, hoping to return to their pre-pandemic life.

"Now everything is resuming and I want to have some kind of protection," Tykhova told AFP.

When the Olympics were postponed in 2020 "it was a tragedy for athletes and coaches", shooting coach Volodymyr Ivanchuk said.

"A lot of work has been done and not put to use," the 55-year-old added.

Ukraine's sports ministry said it received 1,500 vaccines for athletes, who will be vaccinated on a voluntary basis.

With 99 days until the Olympics, Japan will not require athletes to be vaccinated, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is encouraging vaccination and has secured the Chinese-made jab for athletes in countries without access.

Since the start of the pandemic Ukraine has recorded more than 1.9 million infections and more than 38,000 deaths.

Ukraine's vaccination campaign has struggled due to a lack of supplies, receiving only 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and 215,000 doses of China's CoronaVac jab for its population of 40 million.

The country's vaccination drive was launched last month and 400,000 people have so far received a first dose.