Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

It's easy to get vaccinated in Japan – if you have 'connections'

24 Comments

It’s really, really hard to get vaccinated in Japan.

Media reports described intermittent chaos. Internet connections broke down, telephone lines clogged. Hours of repeated attempts may have got you to a human voice – saying call back tomorrow, or next week. Frustration mounted. It was only in mid-April that vaccination got underway for those aged 65 and over. By that time Israel had vaccinated half its population at least once, and there was talk of achieving herd immunity. The U.S., desperately playing catch-up after a disastrously late start, had achieved 39 percent one-time vaccination. Japan’s rate, as of May 20, was 4.6 percent of residents over 65.

Alternatively, it’s really, really easy to get vaccinated in Japan. All you need, says Josei Jishin (June 8), is “connections.”

One day a man in his 50s got a call from a doctor friend. “How about it?” said the doctor. “There’s vaccine left over. Do you want to get jabbed?”

He did indeed. His work brings him into contact with many people and he is in constant fear of infection. “Of course!” he replied without the slightest hesitation.

He is not a medical worker, not over 65 and not suffering any chronic health problem that may make him a priority case. No matter. His doctor friend saw to the preliminary formalities, sending the necessary documents and setting things up with the hospital in question. The man showed up, was ushered through the system, and was in and out so fast, he says, he was “almost disappointed.”

“Connections” – the word inevitably suggests another: “corruption.” There’s plenty of that, but it’s not the whole story, Josei Jishin says. A medical professional it speaks to explains: “One bottle of Pfizer vaccine contains serum for five people. Once the bottle is open the serum is good for six hours. After that it can no longer be used.

“So let’s say,” he continues, “you’re a clinic with enough supply for 15 patients a day – and it’s the end of the day and only 14 have come. What do you do with the remaining dose – throw it out?”

That would be a dreadful waste. The first alternative that suggests itself is – call someone you know.

What that can amount to in practice, admits another medical professional, is, “you run down the list of people you receive traditional year-end gifts from.” It’s favoritism and it shouldn’t happen, but allowances perhaps should be made for a system unfolding under dauntingly stressful conditions.

“Almost all prominent people know someone” who can get them through the system fast and out of turn, Josei Jishin hears from a doctor. Favoritism aside, in the rush to get as many patients as possible vaccinated, identity checks tend to be perfunctory. A non-priority medical student, for example, might pose as a priority medical staffer, and get away with it.

“The system is full of holes,” says yet another of Josei Jishin’s medical sources. Here arises another question of priority. If plugging the holes means slowing the pace of vaccination, should moral lapses be thwarted, or winked at?

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
Login to comment

No problem with this. It's how the world works. And if the vaccine were going to be wasted, there is no harm.

6 ( +18 / -12 )

It's easy to get vaccinated in Japan – if you have 'connections'

It's easy to do anything if you have connections. Networking should be taught at elementary school for its social, economic, technological and political multiplier benefits.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

The title makes it seem more nefarious, but in reality the doctor is not wasting a shot of the vaccine. Should he have tried to contact another elderly patient, sure, but if it ensures more people vaccinated, I'm not going to lose sleep over it.

I was expecting to read about how many Yakuza, or others have stolen vaccines and were selling them on the black market or something like that.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

Works for me. The faster these people with “connections” get theirs, the faster my family and I can get ours.

Worlds better than NO ONE getting it, or clinics just throwing out doses because of stupidity.

just hurry up and vax these people with “connections” so is regular folk can get them.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

If the alternative is the vaccine going to waste, then sure, give it to your friend.

Trying to do everything perfectly has been paralyzing the Japanese rollout of the vaccine. At some point they just have to take action. I realize this goes against the perfectionist impulse that it often prevalent in Japanese culture, but this situation calls for an urgent response.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

I agree with most here. That is how the world works and i find the comments more mature than the article.

most of us would use the right connections if we could and at several times in life, we do

0 ( +3 / -3 )

What a non-story.......

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

No problem with this. It's how the world works. That is how the world works and i find the comments more mature than the article.

It's not the way the rest of the world works, at least in the developed part of it. I'm going for my shot (in Australia) in about one hour's time and the only connection I needed was an internet one.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

No problem with this. It's how the world works.

That the world works like this is the problem, FYI.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

It's the Japanese obsession with fairness that to a certain extent has slowed things down. I read somewhere that if there are 9000 vaccines for 10,000 people, then nobody gets it because it wouldn't be fair. That's insane! It also goes against the concept of herd immunity. What's more important, fairness or being alive??

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I read somewhere that if there are 9000 vaccines for 10,000 people, then nobody gets it because it wouldn't be fair. That's insane!

Could you cite this? Sounds unusual.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I summed up all great words and official announcements so far and therefore I would say that no connections are needed at all as we already have plenty of vaccines around and could even now easily swim in it like at summer pool parties.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Media reports described intermittent chaos. Internet connections broke down, telephone lines clogged. Hours of repeated attempts may have got you to a human voice – saying call back tomorrow, or next week. Frustration mounted. It was only in mid-April that vaccination got underway for those aged 65 and over. By that time Israel had vaccinated half its population at least once, and there was talk of achieving herd immunity. The U.S., desperately playing catch-up after a disastrously late start, had achieved 39 percent one-time vaccination. Japan’s rate, as of May 20, was 4.6 percent of residents over 65.

Yup. typical here

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why throw away a left over dose, think the doctor did the right thing? But it is good the media is watching this like a hawk and looking at it in a cynical way.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

shogun36

Works for me. The faster these people with “connections” get theirs, the faster my family and I can get ours.

...

just hurry up and vax these people with “connections” so is regular folk can get them.

I don't understand your logic. How would people skipping line help your family get it faster?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just vaccinate as much people as possible and don't throw away vaccines. The doctors are correct. Sometimes you need to bend the rules to get the things moving.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

For those without connections, there are things you can do to help minimize you risk from COVID-19 until you are eligible to get vaccinated (but apparently mentioning this under COVID-19 stories is somehow 'off topic'). Anyway, for those interested, I'd recommend listening to the conversation between US critical care physician Dr. Pierre Kory (who, by the way, helped pioneer the use of corticosteroids and blood thinners for treating COVID patients) and Dr. Bret Weinstein on the later's youtube channel or podcast.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

While preventing the wastage of vaccines is to be commended, that is only a part of the concern re "connections".

My friend a pharmacist with her own private family business, was vaccinated in early April. Pharmacists as part of the "health workers" community are eligible for such.

But her vaccination here in regional Japan was way way earlier than many frontline workers - doctors, nurses etc. She was a little embarrassed when telling me and said it was probably because her business is opposite the prefectural govt building and she knows well many of the senior bureaucrats and politicians. She is the 3rd generation owner and the pharmacy has been on the same spot for 100 years.

Another case of a friend - retired public servant - was senior civil engineer in the prefectural govt got his 2nd shot weeks ago. Over 65 but fit as a bull. He says maybe he got in early because of his previous work status.

That's 2 local cases that lowly me knows of. Must be magnified greatly nation wide.

And yes I know that's how things operate - but when another friend a doctor who runs a largish nursing home with 130 staff could only receive shots for all workers 3 weeks ago - well then that simply is mis-management of the system and dangerously unfair.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So in the end, vaccines are not really free. Without solid connections, we have to pay top dollar to on the black net to get one. While other countries offer incentives to get vaccines, here we have to pay 3 month average salary per shot trying to find availabilities on the black market.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So people are outraged that individuals are utilizing social networking? Every person outraged is one of those easily manipulated people who can be controlled by invoking emotional responses. To be angry specifically about this means they want to be angry at something. This is normal everyday life and the people who are angry about this have either done the same exact thing utilizing their social networks or they have no friends whatsoever.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

So what is government for? Surely part of the vaccine rollout plan is to work out the logistics. This is where they could use private sector expertise to work out the most efficient systems so that every area or clinic has a standby system so that the unused doses in a vial are all used. But it's not rocket science. Are you a small clinic near a large hospital? Set up a hotline and they can just organise for staff or patients to go along to the clinic on the spot. Arrange with a local care home. Make an arrangement with a local school for teachers to be on standby. Or high school students. Or a transport company, a taxi company, for their drivers. Or any medium or largish employer that has enough staff that someone can pop out at short notice.

What shocking lack of organisation, and inability to get creative.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Similar moral quandaries were discussed here in the States when the vaccine rollout was just getting underway. In the end, most people came to the same conclusion.......first try to give the shots to those who need them the most, and when the last of the bottle is about to expire, use it as best you can. But, try not to waste it! Better to give it to someone who is not on the list, than to let it go in the trash.

I remember that in the beginning there were a few instances of health professionals being fined for giving out the last of the doses to anyone available. In the end, we pretty much collectively agreed that it is better to give the shots to someone not next in line than to let them go to waste. Common sense needs to prevail over bureaucratic fanaticism.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/10/us/houston-doctor-fired-covid-vaccine.html

The above article is from February, at the beginning of the vaccine rollout over here. A doctor was actually fired for trying to do the right thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sure it is better to give the vaccine to someone instead of throwig it but what about just designing a plan to give left over not at the discretion of practitioner but according to a set plan ? It is not like it is not already done in part of Japan so other could follow suit :

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210602/p2a/00m/0na/022000c

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites