The Indian sports ministry has informed Indian badminton players that the government plans to start the COVID-19 vaccination drive for Tokyo hopefuls from March. However, no dates have been decided.
With the badminton Olympic qualification window resuming with the Swiss Open in March and extending till the Indian Open in May, timely vaccination will ensure Indian players do not miss out due to the virus.
The vaccination plan was decided at a high-level meeting involving the sports ministry, Badminton Association of India (BAI) and top Indian shuttlers PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.
The meeting was chaired by sports secretary Ravi Mittal. BAI secretary Ajay Singhania and Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) CEO Rajesh Rajagopalan were also present.
“I will definitely take (the vaccine), even if it is 90 per cent efficient,” Chirag Shetty told the Hindustan Times. “It will be a big relief, especially seeing the situation the Indian team faced in Thailand. Indian players had to withdraw and our participation was in doubt.”
At the two Thailand Opens and the BWF World Tour Finals in Bangkok recently, Indian shuttlers faced a tough time due to COVID.
Just before the first Thailand Open, Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy tested positive for the coronavirus, putting the entire Indian contingent at high risk. Though these turned out to be false positive results, matches needed to be rescheduled and Indian support staff were not allowed courtside on the first day.
At the second Thailand Open, B Sai Praneeth tested positive, forcing his roommate Kidambi Srikanth to pull out of the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols. However, later it was affirmed that Sai’s result was also a false alarm.
“If we are vaccinated, we won’t face such situations. We don’t want to be going through all this when the focus is Olympics qualifiers,” Chirag added.
The players also requested single occupancy accommodation during tournaments to mitigate such issues, which was accepted.
India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive began on January 16 with frontline workers and health professionals given priority in the first lot.