Australia's team doctor says a coronavirus vaccine may not be found before next year's Tokyo Games. Image by AP PHOTO

Summer Olympics

Coronavirus vaccine doubtful for Olympics

2020-05-26 18:10:26

Developing a coronavirus vaccine in time for next year’s Olympic Games is doubtful, the chief medical officer of Australia’s team says.

Dr David Hughes says it’s not a “fait accompli” that a vaccine will be found.

“There have been attempts in the past to develop a vaccine to coronavirus and they have been unsuccessful,” Dr Hughes said on Tuesday.

“Certainly if we got an effective vaccine, that would be an absolute game changer.

“But whether that arrives in time for the Olympics and Paralympics is somewhat doubtful.”

Japan’s medical association has said it would be difficult to stage next year’s Tokyo Games without the discovery of a coronavirus vaccine.

The Olympics, originally scheduled in July and August 2020, have been postponed until next year amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

“My advice is, in terms of planning for the Paralympics and Olympics next year in Tokyo, we need to make an assumption that there will not be vaccine,” Dr Hughes said.

“And that means it will not be business as usual and it will be a very different looking Olympics from what has been before.”

Dr Hughes, speaking to a National Sport Integrity Forum, said Australia’s Olympic hierarchy was working on contingency plans.

“We know that the key underpinning fact contributing to transmission is the number of unnecessary contacts that people have between each other,” he said.

“So we need to look at an Olympics that minimises interaction between individuals.”

The Australian team, expected to be about 850 strong, may not arrive or stay in Tokyo en masse.

“We may need to look at staggered start times and finish times where individuals go in, do what they need to do to compete and then leave again, leaving a relatively small Australian footprint,” Dr Hughes said.

“That is one option.

“We would also need to look at what particular processes the Japanese government might put in place in terms of quarantine and testing.

“Really what we need to see over the next few months is how well the rest of the world brings their outbreaks under control.

“Because that certainly will make the whole Olympics and Paralympics much more viable, if we see global transmission rates coming under control over the next four to six months.”