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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

IOC president Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo this week as a cheerleader for next year's Olympics, saying he's "very confident" the Games will open with fans on July 23, 2021.

What he's saying: Bach issued a gentle plea to all competitors to get vaccinated if and when a vaccine is available, and added that a "reasonable number" of fans should be able to attend with or without a vaccine.

  • Worth noting: Team USA's chief medical officer, Jonathan Finnoff, doesn't think there will be enough time to vaccinate everyone, even if vaccines continue to progress. "You have to think about it as a non-vaccinated Games," he told The Wall Street Journal.

The backdrop: Japan has controlled the coronavirus relatively well, with about 1,900 deaths in a country of roughly 125 million. And in recent weeks, sporting events have successfully been held with fans in attendance.

  • A test gymnastics event was staged in Tokyo last week involving athletes from Japan, China, Russia, and the U.S. About 2,000 fans attended, and outside of competition and training, gymnasts were confined to their hotel rooms.
  • Baseball games have been held in front of thousands of fans, who are required to wear masks and banned from cheering or shouting.

Go deeper

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Faces of COVID creator on telling the stories of those we've lost

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.

1 hour ago - Health

WSJ: Pfizer expects to ship half as many COVID vaccines as planned in 2020

A Pfizer factory in Puurs, Belgiam on Dec. 3. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech have halved their original estimates for how many coronavirus vaccines would be shipped globally by the end of this year, citing supply-chain issues, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Why it matters: The U.K. government has ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine — enough to inoculate some 20 million people. The companies now expect to ship 50 million vaccines by the end of 2020, per WSJ.