(Reuters) – Olympic champion sprinter Yohan Blake of Jamaica said he would rather miss the Tokyo Games than get the COVID-19 vaccine, although getting vaccinated will not be required of the athletes competing there this summer.
“My mind still stays strong, I don’t want any vaccine, I’d rather miss the Olympics than take the vaccine, I am not taking it,” he was quoted as saying in Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner.
“I don’t really want to get into it now, but I have my reasons.”
Blake, a one-time rival of Jamaican great Usain Bolt, will likely still be able to participate in what is expected to be the 31-year-old’s third and final Games even if he does not get the vaccine.
The International Olympic Committee has said getting the vaccine is “encouraged” but not compulsory for athletes.
“Follow your mind, don’t follow the crowd,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist said in a video posted to Twitter on Saturday.
“At the same time, be respectful to each and every one. Don’t let no one take away your choice.”
The Jamaican government is expected to receive its first shipment of the vaccine next week, The Gleaner reported.
Blake’s remarks came after a series of eight meets were held across the Caribbean island nation on Saturday, marking a return to large-scale sporting events that had been on hold due to the pandemic.
The Olympics, which were pushed back by a year due to the global health crisis, are set to begin on July 23 though speculation remains the event might yet be canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in San Francisco; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)