Lithuania has become the latest nation to begin vaccinating athletes against COVID-19 ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Lithuania National Olympic Committee released photos of the country’s first set of Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls receiving vaccinations on Thursday.

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Coaches and medical staff were also able to receive voluntary vaccinations. The Lithuania National Olympic Committee said athletes and their team members were included in the priority list for vaccines by a Government decree, following a recommendation from the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports.

Athletes were split into two groups, with the first round of vaccinations given to 82 people. The second group is scheduled to be vaccinated on February 25. The first COVID-19 vaccine was given to kayaker Ignas Navakauskas, while high jumper Airinė Palšytė, Paralympic sprinter Ernestas Česonis, marathon runner Remigijus Kančys, cyclist Simona Krupeckaitė, and basketball players Marius Grigonis and Paulius Jankūnas were also pictured as having received the first dose.

The second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be given to the athletes 35 days later. Around 290 Lithuanian athletes, coaches and medics are expected to be vaccinated in total ahead of Tokyo 2020. Lithuania reportedly has a rate of 5.2 vaccinations per every 100 people at this stage of the vaccine rollout.

Around 144,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have reportedly been given to residents of the country to date. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has repeatedly said it will not jump the queue ahead of those who need a vaccination most and has insisted it will not be mandatory for athletes to compete at the Games.

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Playbooks released by the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee for stakeholders such as athletes have reiterated vaccines will not be mandatory for participants to attend Tokyo Olympic, with measures such as frequent testing, masks and social distancing set to be in place instead.

Countries such as Hungary, Serbia and Israel are already in the process of vaccinating their Olympic and Paralympic delegations, however. Other National Olympic Committees, including those in Germany, Canada, Britain and Italy, who have decided not to ask for their athletes to be given priority for vaccinations, will hope that vaccines will be available ahead of the Games.

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