Tokyo Olympics 'Not Contingent' on COVID-19 Vaccine, Says IOC Member John Coates

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 29, 2020

Chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games coordination committee John Coates speaks at a joint press conference of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 organisation committee in Tokyo on November 1, 2019. - The 2020 Olympic marathon and race-walking will be moved to northern Japan over heat concerns, officials said on November 1, after Tokyo's governor offered her reluctant support. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)

John Coates, an International Olympic Committee member who serves as the organization's coordination commission leader for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, told the Australian Associated Press that he did not believe a vaccine for COVID-19 would be needed for the Games to be held in the summer of 2021. 

"The advice we're getting from WHO (World Health Organization) says we should continue to plan for this date and that is what we're doing, and that's not contingent on a vaccine," Coates said. "A vaccine would be nice. But we will just continue to be guided by WHO and the Japanese health authorities."

The Games have been postponed for one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Per the World Health Organization, over 3,000,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, and over 208,000 people have died as of April 29.

Coates' remarks come one day after Japan Medical Association president Yoshitake Yokokura said that he believed "it would be difficult to hold the Olympics unless effective vaccines are developed."

The 32nd edition of the Summer Olympic Games has a rescheduled start date of July 23, 2021, with closing ceremonies on August 8. The Paralympic Games are set for Aug. 24 through Sept. 5.

Per a World Health Organization report on April 20 (h/t Andrew Zaleski of Popular Mechanics), five candidate vaccines are in clinical evaluation, and another 71 are in preclinical evaluation.

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All candidate vaccines that enter the clinical evaluation stage entered a phased process, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains here in further detail:

"Clinical development is a three-phase process. During Phase I, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine. In Phase II, the clinical study is expanded and vaccine is given to people who have characteristics (such as age and physical health) similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. In Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety.

"Many vaccines undergo Phase IV formal, ongoing studies after the vaccine is approved and licensed."

Of the five candidate vaccines, four are in Phase I, and one is in Phase II: an effort co-developed by CanSino Biological Inc./Beijing Institute of Biotechnology.

Per, CanSino's Phase II study began on April 12 and plans to test 500 people for a period of six months during this phase.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Bloomberg's David Rubenstein on Tuesday that he was "cautiously optimistic" that a vaccine could be developed by the winter.