Time is running out for the Belgian Olympians to get a vaccine, but they still did not get the green light. The BOIC negotiated this on Friday with the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “Those conversations were very constructive,” says the BOIC, which in the meantime recommends that its athletes be put on the reserve list.

“The faster the vaccine for our athletes, the better”, is the current position of the Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee (BOIC). In this way they want to allay the uncertainty among the Olympians, who fear that they will be infected with the COVID-19 virus a few months before the start of Tokyo. Then they risk up to 30% loss of performance, or worse, heart damage, as research shows. An infection with the virus, but also a late vaccination with side effects, can undermine their years of preparation for the Games.

Discussions with politicians are still ongoing as to what the right timing might be. The BOIC itself felt that medical care workers, older populations and the most vulnerable groups should come first, but then hoped for political understanding to accelerate the vaccination of athletes as they are at greater risk from their participation in international competitions. In some other countries, the Olympians have already been vaccinated, or are looking at it as in Japan to do so early.

On Thursday and Friday, the BOIC discussed this with the competent authorities of Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke and the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “Those conversations were very positive and constructive,” says Matthias Van Baelen, spokesman for the BOIC. “There is understanding for our position. We still hope for approval as soon as possible and firmly deny that a negative decision has already been taken. ” The Belgian government would also have received a letter from the International Olympic Committee and chairman Thomas Bach himself asking to vaccinate the Olympic athletes.

Thomas Bach.
Thomas Bach. © EPA

So hope, or is it false hope? The BOIC admits that no formal promise of concrete timing has yet been made. The BOIC has now also emailed all their athletes with the advice to put themselves on the reserve list. The government has communicated that from April 6 every Belgian adult can register via the online platform QVAX on a central reserve list in order to receive a vaccine more quickly. This list is intended to make optimal use of surplus vaccines when people are unable to show up or do not show up

In the email to the Olympians, the BOIC points out that the health and safety of all athletes and their supervisors is paramount, and that the BOIC has been in direct contact with the authorities for a timely vaccination of Team Belgium since November 2020: “Unfortunately, we have not yet succeeded in achieving a uniform scheme for the vaccination of Team Belgium. We will continue to vigorously work on this. In order to be vaccinated as soon as possible, we ask you to register on the general reserve list. ”

The BOIC also communicates the address of a local vaccination center so that it can also be placed on the reserve list there, “taking into account the priority of the vulnerable groups in society”.

It remains to be seen whether this reserve list will bring real relief for Belgian athletes and their supervisors in practice: the reserve list is also linked to priority target groups and there is a waiting sequence.

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