U.S. athletes trying to make the Winter Olympics will have to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 under a groundbreaking new policy announced Wednesday by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that, starting Nov. 1, the USOPC will require staff, athletes and others utilizing training centers and other USOPC facilities to be vaccinated.
The requirement, she said, “will also apply to our full Team USA delegation at future Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
According to the team website, athletes will have to show proof of vaccination by Dec. 1. The U.S. is expected to send around 240 athletes, though the mandate will impact hundreds more – anyone with hopes of making the final squad.
The International Olympic Committee has been encouraging vaccines but did not require them for athletes who competed in the Summer Olympics. With that guidance, most national Olympic committees, including the USOPC, followed suit by strongly recommending the vaccines but not requiring them. The IOC's first “Playbook,” a booklet offering health-related and other guidance for the Winter Games, is due out next month.
Earlier this year, around 83% of the more than 600 American athletes who qualified for Tokyo got the shots in time for the Summer Games, according to the USOPC's final count. The IOC estimated about 85% of all athletes in the Olympic village had been vaccinated.