Roughly 100 of more than 600 U.S. athletes competing in Tokyo for the Summer Games have not been vaccinated, the U.S. doctor said Friday.
Despite holdouts, NBC News reports that team doctor Jonathan Finoff is happy with the vaccination rate of 83% that he calculated from sorting through athletes’ health histories.
“Eighty-three percent is actually a substantial number, and we’re quite happy with it,” said Dr. Finnoff, medical chief for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
The rate is far higher than the general U.S. population’s vaccination rate of 49%.
Officials disclosed the rate as the Games kicked off in Tokyo with formal opening ceremonies in a relatively empty stadium.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said he was disappointed by the figure both in terms of safety and what it represents.
“It’s unfortunate to see only about 80% of U.S. athletes vaccinated. We had an opportunity to set an example for the world around vaccinations. Certainly, our athletes had more access to vaccine than many other athletes around the world,” Dr. Gottlieb told CNBC.
At the same time, he said he thinks the Games can be held successfully due to frequent testing and protocols that move athletes into isolation as needed.
“I think these Games will come off, come off safely,” he said.
The International Olympic Committee did not require athletes to get vaccinated before coming to the Olympic Village, though it did strike a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech to make the shots available to them before arrival.
The National Football League, meanwhile, says teams might forfeit games and lose paychecks if outbreaks among unvaccinated people force cancelations on game day.
“It looks like a way to mandate vaccination without mandating vaccination,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “I think you’re going to see more businesses do this.”