TT OLYMPIC Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis has accepted an offer by the Pan American Sports Organisation to vaccinate all qualified athletes and accredited officials who will participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

On Tuesday, Panam Sports reported that it had reached an agreement with the University of Miami, United States and the Mexican Consulate in Miami to receive 4,000 vaccines that will be used to help ensure the health of the athletes and officials who will participate in the Summer Games.

A statement issued by Panam Sports president Neven Ilic said the vaccine is the one produced by Johnson & Johnson laboratory (one dose) and must be administered at least 30 days before entering Japan.

The vaccination process will begin on May 24 at the Consulate General of Mexico in Miami.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, has not mandated that athletes must be vaccinated to compete at the July 23 to August 8 Games.

Lewis welcomed the proposal by the regional body and said the local Olympic fraternity had already begun contacting qualified and potential athletes and officials who would like to tap in to this initiative.

“I can confirm that the president of Panam Sports has communicated with all the presidents of the National Olympic Committees (NOC) of the Americas and outlined how we can access the opportunity presented. The TTOC will certainly be embracing the opportunity presented by Panam Sports.

“We (TT) will be accessing the programme. It’s another tool in the toolbox in the priority of the Olympic Movement to ensure that every effort is taken to have the safety and health of not just the athletes and officials going to Tokyo 2020, but the people of Japan,” said Lewis.

To ensure smooth coordination, each NOC must send a list with the full name and passport number of each person from the delegation that requires a vaccine via email at the earliest convenience.

The IOC and Panam Sports will reimburse the cost of the airplane ticket (round trip from the country of origin to the USA) for the athletes and officials up to a maximum of US$500 per person.

The accommodation and visa requirements of each person to be vaccinated are the responsibility of each NOC.

Previously, the TTOC aligned itself with the IOC/Chinese Olympic Committee’s (IOC/COC) offer to have athletes vaccinated through their programme. However, after Tuesday’s offer from Panam Sports and a short chat with IOC officials on the way forward, Lewis confirmed vaccinating TT’s athletes with the Johnson & Johnson jab was the best way forward.

He said, “The vaccination programme currently being run by the IOC/COC uses the sinovac vaccine. But that particular vaccine has not received approval from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The TT government has made it clear that it would not administer any vaccines to nationals which are not WHO approved. The opportunity outlined by Ilic is one that, in the circumstances, the TTOC would be engaging as a better option as compared to the IOC/COC programme.

“We agreed, with the IOC representative, that the most plausible option for the TTOC would be the Panam Sports option.”

The Olympic president added that he has no intention of tapping into the recent 100,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China which were scheduled to arrive in TT on Tuesday.

Lewis does not believe athletes and officials should “jump the line” ahead of the many frontline workers and senior citizens who are deemed primary recipients of these vaccines.

He urged TT’s athletes to use this opportunity to get vaccinated ahead of the Games.

“TTOC are already working on identifying those who are willing to volunteer. The IOC, however, has made it clear that getting the vaccine is not mandatory but it is encouraged.

“While I respect the views of any member of the delegation who chooses not to get vaccinated, that is to be respected, I am encouraging that members of the TT delegation get vaccinated,” he said.

Lewis credited Ilic and the leadership of Panam Sports for devising such a unique strategy to help the region’s athletes protect themselves from covid19.

Ilic’s invitation to the region’s NOCs said, “We know that in many of our countries throughout the continent it is very difficult to receive the covid19 vaccine. Therefore, we have made a significant effort to reach this outstanding agreement that will help all of the athletes who have not had the chance to become inoculated.

“Now these athletes have the opportunity to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States, and thus travel with better protection to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.”

According to Ilic, the NOCs must send their request listing the athletes and officials they wish to be vaccinated as soon as possible so they can be inoculated at least 30 days before entering Japan.