Lee Dae-hoon was among the first athletes to be given a dose ©Getty Images

South Korea has begun vaccinating athletes against COVID-19 in the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said it had been in discussions with the Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention since January over plans to vaccinate the Tokyo 2020 team.

An initial vaccination list was prepared and confirmed earlier this month, which formed the basis for the final vaccination plan.

Athletes will be given the Pfizer vaccine under the plan produced, which considers the vaccination cycle for each vaccine as well as the competition schedule for Tokyo 2020.

Support personnel will receive vaccines in accordance with current guidelines.

This will see the AstraZeneca vaccine be given to those aged 30 and over, while the Pfizer vaccine will be given to those under the age of 30.

"We support the athletes who are working hard in difficult situations, such as the Games being postponed due to COVID-19," the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said.

"This vaccination is for the safe and successful participation of the players in the Games."

The vaccination of athletes began today, with around 100 athletes and support personnel receiving their first doses.

London 2012 Olympic taekwondo silver medallist Lee Dae-hoon was among the first athletes vaccinated, along with members of South Korea’s women’s volleyball team.

South Korea reportedly expects to vaccinate 500 athletes in the first week of May, with 931 expected to be vaccinated in total ahead of the Games.

Over 900 members of South Korea's Olympic and Paralympic teams will be vaccinated ©Getty Images
Over 900 members of South Korea's Olympic and Paralympic teams will be vaccinated ©Getty Images

Around three million people in South Korea have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to date, out of a population of 52 million.

South Korean expects to have vaccinated healthcare workers and the elderly by June.

The South Korean Government has targeted achieving herd immunity by November.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 have said vaccines will not be mandatory for athletes to compete at the Games.

Countries such as Lithuania, Hungary, Serbia, Israel and Zambia are already in the process of vaccinating their Olympic and Paralympic delegations.

Athletes from Australia, Mexico and New Zealand have also been confirmed as being placed in a priority group for vaccinations in their respective countries.

Other NOCs, including those in Canada, Britain and Italy will hope that vaccines will be available ahead of the Games after deciding against pushing athletes further up the queue to receive a jab.

Germany had initially pushed back against early access to COVID-19 vaccines before it was announced last week that 800 athletes, coaches and other personnel who will represent the country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be offered vaccines, along with 300 for the Paralympics.

The decision to offer the vaccine to athletes was made due to more vaccines becoming available.