South America's football federations to receive coronavirus vaccines

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A shipment of 50,000 vaccines donated by China arrived in Uruguay for distribution among 10 South American football federations

South America's football governing body, CONMEBOL, said Thursday it was all set to distribute, free of charge, 50,000 coronavirus vaccines donated by China among its 10-member federations.

The shipment of vaccines produced by China's Sinovac pharma company arrived Wednesday in Montevideo, Uruguay, from where they will be dispensed.

"The vaccines will... make the international competitions safer, starting with the CONMEBOL Copa America 2021, due to start on June 13," the confederation said.

The Copa America tournament, like the European Championship, was due to take place last year but was postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be co-hosted by Argentina and Colombia, both countries with a high burden of coronavirus cases and deaths.

CONMEBOL said it would target thousands of players competing in both the men's and women's competitions, referees, technicians and other staff.

In the case of unused vaccines, individual associations must allocate doses to people who need them, subject to CONMEBOL approval, the body said.

"The criterion is that no vaccine is wasted, and that the football environment is given priority," it added.

Earlier this month, Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez cast doubt over the Copa America, saying: "I don't want to frustrate the Copa America spectacle but I want us to be very sensible, very careful."

The following day, Colombia's sports minister insisted the tournament will be played "with or without fans."

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