Danka Barteková said she is hoping to be vaccinated before Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

A senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission has encouraged athletes who are happy to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to receive it "as soon as possible" to help with preparations for Tokyo 2020.

Slovakian skeet shooter Danka Barteková told insidethegames she fully supports those on the frontline being given priority but said giving athletes the opportunity to be vaccinated would be the "best scenario" for them and Tokyo 2020 organisers.

The IOC Athletes' Commission vice-chair said it would not only be beneficial for organisers, but would also ensure the safe holding of qualification events and pre-Games training camps.

The issue has been a hot topic this month after senior IOC member Richard Pound claimed prioritising athletes for the COVID-19 vaccine would be the "most realistic way" of ensuring the Games take place this year.

There was no suggestion from Pound that athletes should be placed ahead of the elderly, vulnerable and healthcare workers.

"I fully understand and support the fact that people in the first line of fight against the virus should be prioritised," Barteková, who revealed she would receive the vaccination as soon as she is able, told insidethegames.

"However I believe if there is a chance for athletes to get vaccinated it would significantly help them (us) to prepare for the Games. 

"It's not just about travelling to Japan in July, there is a lot more we need to resolve before - qualification events in many sports need to be held to determine quotas. 

"And not to mention many international training camps and competitions athletes need to take part in before the Games.

"Vaccinations can help them (us) to travel safely without risks of getting infected and also, it will help to protect people of the countries hosting the events.

"I can say the best scenario would be to give athletes opportunity to get vaccinated if they wish to do so, as soon as possible."

Vaccinations for COVID-19 have begun in several countries across the world ©Getty Images
Vaccinations for COVID-19 have begun in several countries across the world ©Getty Images

The IOC has repeatedly said it will not jump the queue ahead of those who need a vaccination most.

Speaking in November, IOC President Thomas Bach encouraged athletes to have a COVID-19 vaccination before the postponed Olympics but insisted it would not be an entry requirement for the Games.

The organisation has expressed its commitment to having as many foreign participants as possible vaccinated for COVID-19 before Tokyo 2020.

Bach has also warned the vaccinations will not be a "silver bullet" for the Games, scheduled to open on July 23, going ahead.

Concerns over a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan and a host of other countries following the discovery of new variants of COVID-19 have thrown doubt on the Games being held this year, but Barteková believes it will be possible if the rules and protocols set to be in place are followed.

"Vaccinations are just one element of delivery of a safe Games," the London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist said. 

"It won't be compulsory and athletes and team members will have a choice, which I believe is fair.

"However to have majority of athletes and team members vaccinated could really help organisers to adapt their health policies."

Olympic BMX silver medallist Sarah Walker believes it would not be a good look for athletes to receive priority ©Getty Images
Olympic BMX silver medallist Sarah Walker believes it would not be a good look for athletes to receive priority ©Getty Images

Barteková added: "Personally I'm planning to get vaccinated not only to protect myself on my journey to Tokyo but also as a sign of respect to people of Japan as host country.

"However even if the athletes won't be vaccinated the Organising Committee and IOC are doing their best to deliver a safe Games. 

"A lot of measures have been adopted already such as reduced period of stay in the Olympic Village for competing athletes and various protocols have already been suggested. 

"I believe if we all will do our job in respecting the rules it will be possible to deliver safe Games."

New Zealand BMX racer and IOC Athletes' Commission member Sarah Walker said it would not be a "good look" for athletes to be given priority.

"Medical workers, essential workers, elderly, those at risk - as long as these groups get to go first, maybe athletes for the Games can be somewhere next in line, but as much as I would like to be vaccinated early, we will have to be patient and understanding," Walker, an Olympic silver medallist and three-time world champion, told insidethegames.

"I think there is an incentive to vaccinate, but if they choose not to vaccinate because of whatever reason, we have to respect that.

"My hope is that the people who want to be vaccinated, can be done before the Games."