(NewsNation Now) — Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers said they expect about 85 percent of athletes in the Olympic Village to be fully vaccinated, but Team USA swimmer Michael Andrew will not be one of them.
“My decision to go into the games unvaccinated is one we didn’t take lightly,” Andrew said in an interview while en route to Japan.
The 22-year-old said he is “doing as much research as possible, but one thing we have understood is that as an athlete, as a young individual, I’m very healthy. I have a very strong immune system.”
Andrew said he had COVID-19 with mild symptoms in December.
“I didn’t get the vaccine because I understand, as an elite athlete, everything we put in our body has consequences and for something that has come to the market so quickly, I don’t know how my body is going to react to it.,” Andrew said. “This is the most important couple of weeks of my life as an athlete, and I just didn’t want to risk anything happening.”
The Olympic athletes are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but will all have to adhere to the strict safety protocols outlined in the Athletes and Team Officials Playbook.
Andrew is slated to compete in the 50m free, 100 meter breast and 200 meter individual medley. He will be ineligible to compete if Andrew tests positive for COVID-19 or is forced to quarantine.
His teammates have accepted his choice not to get vaccinated, according to Andrew.
“They know I’m not doing this to try and harm or to put someone in harm’s way,” he said. “It’s just, that’s my decision. And I think it’s cool to see that they respect my decision.”
The Olympics, already delayed a year because of COVID-19, are due to run from July 23 to Aug. 8. Olympic village, the accommodation center built for athletes, officially opened Tuesday.
Officials have banned spectators from attending almost all Olympics events. Tokyo has declared a state of emergency lasting until Aug. 22, well after the games close on Aug. 8.
Tokyo hit a two-month high of 950 new cases on Saturday. Japan has had roughly 820,000 COVID-19 cases and 15,000 deaths. Only about 28% of the population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.