South Korean athletes travelling to Tokyo for the Olympics Games later this year will receive COVID-19 vaccines starting this week, Yonhap news agency reported.

Around 100 athletes and coaches will get their first shots on Thursday, while around 500 others will be inoculated by the first week of May before they travel to Japan for the Games, Yonhap said, citing the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC).

The KSOC did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The Games, which were pushed back by a year due to the pandemic, are set to run from July 23-Aug. 8.

Nearly 2.7 million South Koreans out of a population of 52 million have received their first vaccine dose, bringing the vaccination rate to just above 4%. The low rate compares with a 41% rate in the United States, according to Reuters data.

COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandatory for participation in the Olympics, but they are recommended.

Some countries have already said they will vaccinate Olympic athletes as a priority while others are considering the situation.

The Australian Olympic Committee will start vaccinating athletes next week using a private contractor to avoid burdening the public health system, its chief executive said. 

South Korea has set an ambitious an target of giving shots to 70% of its people by September and reaching herd immunity by November. 

The country reported 775 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 120,673 and the total number of deaths to 1,821.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa) ((;))