National Olympic Committee of Zambia President Alfred Foloko has received a COVID-19 vaccination and encouraged athletes to follow suit ©Noah Silomba/NOCZ

National Olympic Committee of Zambia (NOCZ) President Alfred Foloko has urged athletes to accept a coronavrius vaccination when offered one ahead of the Olympics.

Foloko joined Tokyo 2020-bound athletes in receiving the AstraZeneca, University of Oxford vaccine earlier this week.

The NOCZ President offered reassurance over the safety of the jab, for which experts insist the benefits outweigh the extremely small risk of it contributing to blood clots.

Three boxers who have earned Olympic berths - Stephen Zimba, Patrick Chinyemba and Evaristo Mulenga - and the women's football team were among the leading Zambian athletes to join Foloko in receiving their first dose.

"I can assure the athletes that the message we have received from the World Health Organization and from our Government through President Edgar Chagwa Lungu is that it is safe and I urge the athletes to take it," Foloko said.

"It’s not mandatory to get the vaccine, however, it will be imperative that athletes who are going for the Games get the vaccine for their own safety and others."

Athletes are able to receive the vaccine either in capital Lusaka or the Copperbelt Province.

The women's athletics team, in Poland for the World Athletics Relays next weekend, missed out on this first phase of the rollout among elite sportspeople. 

The Copper Queens - the women's football team - will be making their Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, and have been drawn in the same group as China, Brazil and The Netherlands.

National Olympic Committees have been encouraged by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to procure COVID-19 vaccinations for athletes if they can, but the IOC insists it will not jump the queue ahead of the most vulnerable and vaccination is not mandatory for Olympians.

The Russian Olympic Committee and Chinese Olympic Committee have both offered to provide vaccines for other nations' Olympic delegations, but that is not how Zambian athletes came to be vaccinated.