Some participants in the Special Olympics will have to make a big decision in order to compete in 2022 — take the COVID-19 injection or stay away from the games.
In late January Special Olympics North America, Special Olympics International and the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games Local Organizing Committee announced COVID-19 vaccination requirements for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
Rachel McQuiston, the manager of marketing and communications for Special Olympics North America, said health, safety and well-being of athletes has been the responsibility and priority of Special Olympics.
“Individuals with intellectual disabilities are at an increased risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19,” she said. “Like every major athletic event host around the world, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games Local Organizing Committee has been working to create an outstanding competitive event while also protecting the health and well-being of all in attendance of the event, against complexities associated with the unprecedented COVID-19 global health crisis.”
Special Olympics Inc. implemented the vaccine requirement for Special Olympics World and Regional Games, including the USA Games — that all delegation members must be fully vaccinated. That decision was based on “extensive research and evaluation” as well as consultation with “global medical experts” and the board of directors.
McQuiston said the requirement has not resulted in a “significant” drop in delegates.
“Some delegation members have chosen not to get vaccinated and, as a result, will not attend the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games,” she added.
An email was sent informing individuals that Special Olympics International is requiring 100 percent vaccination of all delegations members (athletes and unified partners, coaches, heads of delegation, assistant heads of delegation and additional delegates — medical, coaches, caddies, health and youth leadership experience) in events and activities at the USA Games.
While the CDC recommends COVID vaccine boosters, as of Jan. 28 they were not required to be considered fully vaccinated for the USA Games.
Members were asked to do one of three things:
- Provide a photo or copy of a government-issued proof of vaccination that clearly indicates the dates of all vaccine doses and identifies what brand of vaccine was received.
- Provide a plan for vaccination if not currently vaccinated but planning to do so.
- Provide written withdrawal by email communicated to one of three members of Special Olympics Iowa.
“We understand this vaccine requirement will change the status of delegates going to the games,” the email states. “No matter where you fall, we respect everyone’s decision.”