The riders and staff of the UAE Team Emirates squad, including Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar, will be offered vaccination against the COVID-19 coronavirus during a training camp in the Emirates in January, with team manager Mauro Gianetti revealing he has taken part in the phase 3 trials of the vaccine.
“I was one of 30,000 volunteers in Abu Dhabi who tested the new Sinopharm vaccine. It was in two doses and I didn’t have any side-effects,” Gianetti told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“It’s currently in phase 3 testing, it’s still not been authorised but there’s not far to go and they expect to distribute a billion doses in 2021. In January we intend to vaccinate all the riders and staff.”
The Sinopharm vaccine has been developed by China with a part of the trials done in the UAE in collaboration with computing company Group 42. Other vaccines are close to being rolled out across the world but they are expected to be given to older, more vulnerable patients first. Gianetti has secured enough vaccines for all his 28 riders and nearly 100 team staff.
UAE Team Emirates were hit with several cases of COVID-19 last February during the UAE Tour. Fernando Gaviria notably spent a month in quarantine after contracting the disease and other riders and teams, including Pogačar, had to quarantine in the UAE. Team osteopath Dario Marini spent nine days in intensive care.
The 2020 season was raced following a special COVID-19 protocol and protective bubble, with a number of riders and staff testing positive during frequent testing before and during races. The UCI is expected to extend the protocol into 2021 and teams have been cautious about arranging major training camps and travelling internationally. The Sinopharm could give UAE Team Emirates an advantage and facilitate their plans and racing for 2021.
“It’ll completely change our relationship with the outside world,” Giannetti suggested.
“As a team we were hit hard by coronavirus in February, we know what it’s like to go through the nightmare of having the virus.
UAE Team Emirates are planning to hold a training camp in the UAE in January, with everyone vaccinated if the Sinopharm vaccine is approved.
Pogacar is expected to make his 2021 debut at the Challenge Mallorca but then return to the UAE to target the UAE Tour.
“We’re planning for the training camp and our goal is to vaccinate everyone during the training camp, we’ve planned everything with the medical staff,” Gianni explained.
“We’ll be ready to start as soon as the vaccine is approved and certified. The vaccine won’t be obligatory, it’ll be a personal choice.”
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