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COVID shot a must for U.S. athletes at Winter Olympics

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U.S. athletes hoping to compete at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will now have to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

That's following a decision made on Wednesday (September 23) by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement that from November 1, 2021, the body will require "all staff, athletes and those utilizing USOPC facilities" to be fully vaccinated against the virus.

A requirement that will also extend to the full Team USA delegation at future Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The USOPC has added though that athletes and staff will have the opportunity to obtain a medical or religious exemption to the mandate.

No other major North American sports leagues require athletes to be vaccinated, and the International Olympic Committee did not mandate sportspeople who competed at the Tokyo Games to have had the shot - though it was encouraged.

Hirshland added that the move has the support of the Athletes' Advisory Council and National Governing Bodies Council.

The decision is further reinforced by the FDA's approval of the Pfizer vaccine - and recent mandates made by the U.S. federal government.

The Beijing Winter Games kick off on February 4 next year.

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