The Italian National Olympic Committee will "never" ask for its athletes to be vaccinated before others in the country in order to compete at the re-scheduled Tokyo 2020 Games, its President, Giovanni Malagò, has insisted.
Hungary and Serbia began inoculating their Olympic athletes on Friday, while Israel’s Olympic Committee says it has already vaccinated half its Olympic delegation and will complete the process by the end of May.
But Malagò told Italian newspaper La Repubblica: "We already know there are many countries where national athletes are about to be vaccinated.
"We will never ask for this and we don't want it either.
"An elderly person has their sacred right to be vaccinated before a 20-year-old athlete is.
"The athlete is forced to move around: they don't participate in gatherings, they go through airports, changing rooms, competitions, contacts, to defend the Italian flag.
"Politics needs to make this assessment, not sport."
The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly said it will not jump the queue ahead of those who need a vaccination most and has insisted a vaccination will not be mandatory for athletes to compete at the Games.
But IOC President Thomas Bach and other IOC officials, including Athletes' Commission vice-chair Danka Barteková, have encouraged athletes to have the vaccine when they are able to do so.
Last week Bach asked National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to actively engage with their respective Governments to get a "full picture" on the vaccination situation in their countries.
The NOCs are expected to report back to the IOC in early February.
Bach also told members and NOCs that the organisation and the World Health Organization would help NOCs struggling to obtain vaccines in the lead-up to the Games.
Vaccinations on Hungarian athletes began on Friday using the Moderna vaccine, with members of Hungary’s men’s kayak team among 10 people to receive jabs at the Sports Hospital, as they prepare to travel to a training camp in South Africa.
Further vaccinations of additional athletes and professionals working directly next to them are reportedly planned in the coming weeks, with vaccination orders based on a calendar compiled from the dates of the Olympic qualifying contests and oversees training camps.
"As an organisation with Olympic performance in mind, two important factors led to the decision," the HOC said in a statement.
"One is the uncomplicated participation in Olympic qualifying events abroad, and the other is the forced decline due to several months of absence due to possible illnesses.
"Experience to date has shown that the latter aspect also presents an obstacle to our athletes in the best condition, which is impossible to overcome in a few months' time.
"The quantitative calculation carried out showed that there were hundreds of people involved."
The Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee (BOIC) earlier in the month asked for 400 to 500 COVID-19 vaccines for athletes ahead of Tokyo 2020.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, with the Paralympics following from August 24 to September 5.