By Ajai Masand
New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) While there may be apprehensions among Olympic Games-bound athletes about taking the Covid-19 vaccine shot — and its possible side-effects – some of the top Indian shooting coaches feel athletes should allay those fears so as not to compromise on their preparations. On the other hand, some shooters haven’t made up their minds on taking the shot.
Interestingly, the union health ministry has not yet responded to the “several letters that” the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has written to on the issue of vaccination of the Olympic-bound athletes.
“We have written several letters to the Health Ministry but are yet to get a response,” IOA secretary-general Rajiv Mehta told IANS.
National shotgun coach Mansher Singh, whose wards covered themselves with glory at the recently concluded ISSF World Cup in New Delhi, is in favour of athletes taking the shot.
“This (vaccine shot) will provide immunity for sure and ensure our athletes have a shorter recovery time in case they catch the dreaded virus,” said the former Olympian and trap marksman.
Singh said he would take the two shots soon, before the team leaves for the ISSF World Cup in Lonato next month. “I want to be properly immunised against the virus. We cannot afford to have a long recovery period at this crucial phase,” he pointed out.
A feeling among some shooting coaches is that even if the vaccine provides partial immunity, it may help in quick recovery if an athlete contracts the virus, and that would ensure his training ahead of the Olympics is not compromised.
Deepak Dubey, coach of leading Indian rifle shooter Divyansh Panwar, said he too was in favour of his ward taking the shot so that he can concentrate on his ultimate goal of winning an Olympic medal.
“Apart from the fact that a few athletes are apprehensive about the possible side-effects, there is a misconception that taking the vaccine could result in a doping violation. This is totally misplaced. Athletes should not think on those lines as vaccines don’t contain performance-enhancing drugs,” he said.
Mansher said it would be better for athletes to take the vaccines soon as the duration between the first and the second shot should be six to eight weeks. “So, by the time the Games are round the corner, we’ll be assured that our training does not suffer even if someone tests positive as the recovery would probably be much faster,” he said.
Rifle shooter Sanjeev Rajput, who is one among 15 marksmen to have earned a Tokyo Olympic quota place for India, said he has “no personal view” on taking the vaccine shot. He, however, said that “if the Japan Olympic Association makes it mandatory for getting into Tokyo, then we will have no choice but to take it”.
Rapid-fire pistol shooter Anish Bhanwala said he has “not yet made up his mind” on taking the vaccine shot.
National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) secretary Rajiv Bhatia admitted that there is apprehension among some athletes vis-a-vis Covid vaccine shots without naming them. He also said that the federation would not force anyone to take the shot.
“It’s their individual choice. If the International Olympic Committee and the IOA make it mandatory, then everyone has to follow the norms,” he said.