The COVID-19 vaccination for India's Tokyo Olympic-bound athletes is likely to start from the end of March after the sports ministry formally requested the health ministry to enlist the qualifying sportspersons and their coaches in the priority category.

According to a Sports Ministry official, they had already prepared a blue-print and if given a go-ahead by the health ministry, they plan to start the vaccination for Olympic-bound athletes from next month.

"The Sports Ministry has formally requested the Union Health Ministry to place Tokyo Olympics-bound Indian athletes on priority list. We have already chalked out a plan for the two-phased vaccination of athletes, coaches and support staff," the ministry official said.

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"Right now, we are waiting to hear from the Health Ministry. As and when they give us the green signal, we will start executing our plan. We intend to start vaccination of Olympic qualifying athletes from March end." The development comes close on the heels of the Indian Olympic Association writing to the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, requesting him to consider vaccinating the Olympics-bound athletes on a priority basis.

As of now, 74 Indian athletes have qualified for the Olympics, which will be held in the Japan's capital city Tokyo from July 23 to August 8 after being postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 15 shooters, four archers, 32 hockey players (men and women), four wrestlers, nine boxers, one from equestrian and five individual track and field athletes as well as the 4x400m relay team have so far qualified for the Olympics.

Most of these athletes had qualified before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world early last year, which saw a halt in every sporting sphere for close to a year.

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju had already said that his ministry will prioritise athletes and trainers when their turn comes for COVID-19 vaccination but has left it to the Health Ministry to set the overall priority list.

"The government’s policy is very clear. First of all, the vaccine will be provided to COVID warriors, the medical and security people. Our Olympic-bound athletes and their trainers will be provided priority in our ministry but overall priority is set by Ministry of Health," Rijiju had said earlier this month.