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Japan's vaccination rate lowest in G7: Here's why


Israel: 61 percent; UK: 47 percent; Chile: 37 percent; U.S.: 36 percent – of the population vaccinated at least once, as of April 14, against the COVID-19 virus.

Japan: 1 percent.

To say Japan lags behind is an understatement. Other nations are up and running. Japan is barely at the starting line. Why?

Weekly Playboy (May 3) cites various factors –shipment delays, distribution snags, personnel shortages, widespread suspicion of and aversion to the very notion of vaccination, extraordinarily strict vaccine approval standards, and so on. Bad as it looks, the magazine is optimistic. “There is still a chance Japan can recover!” is its exclamatory conclusion.

There is always a chance. Meanwhile, it’s grim. Nationwide vaccination of medical personnel began in February. It was to have been over by mid-April, at which point senior citizens would line up for their jabs.

Having failed to produce a domestic vaccine, Japan contracted with three overseas drug makers for vaccine supply – U.S.-based Pfizer, U.S-based Moderna, and UK-based AstraZeneca. An indication of worse to come was the available stock of vaccine as of March 1 – 1400 boxes representing 1.35 million to 1.6 million jabs. “At this rate,” fumes one doctor to Playboy,  “it will take 16 years to get everyone fully vaccinated.”

Pfizer is to supply vaccine for 72 million jabs by year’s end. Delays notwithstanding, the health ministry confirms its plan to have 36 million people jabbed twice by the end of June. Impossible, Playboy quotes an unnamed medical journalist as commenting. The Pfizer vaccine is complicated. It can’t be produced domestically. It’s being shipped from a lab in Belgium. “Not even Pfizer’s Japan office can say when the full dosage will arrive,” the journalist says.

As for the Moderna vaccine, it’s still being tested, approval expected in May. It, too, is unpredictable. Most is expected of the AstraZeneca serum. It can be produced in Japan; of 120 million doses to be provided within the year, 90 million will be made here. It, too, is slated for final approval in May.

It almost goes without saying: much can go wrong. Will the vaccines cause blood clots? Allergic reactions? Will they work against emerging new strains of the virus? Uneasiness on those and other points is why Japan’s approval procedures are so slow, say critics – or so thorough, to give it a positive spin. By way of example, the Pfizer serum was still being tested two months after it had been approved in the U.S.

Japan’s medical infrastructure is world class – but is not oriented toward epidemics. It’s had few to deal with in recent times, due partly to good luck, partly to admirable sanitation. There are many clinics but few equipped for the task at hand. Distribution channels are inadequate. The serum must be frozen and defrosted and injected within a fixed time span after defrosting. It takes a great deal of management. People who abruptly cancel vaccination appointments can throw very delicate arrangements off kilter, resulting sometimes in serum having to be thrown away.

“Drive-through vaccination” is one option for speeding things up, Playboy suggests. It seems to be working well in Texas, and was underway in a hospital parking lot in the Gifu Prefecture town of Kasamatsu.

And might it be possible, Playboy wonders, to get qualified nurses on childbirth or childcare leave back to work for the emergency? They would be a much-needed asset.

Is the magazine’s optimism justified? One reply might be that optimism is always justified – as potentially self-fulfilling prophecy, if nothing else.

© Japan Today

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There are enough doses to have vaccinated over 1%. The problem is regulatory, systemic, and cultural. Health regulations prevent vaccinations from being given in a widespread fashion by non-doctors; Japan's health system is made up of a bazillion small, privately-owned, disconnected clinics and hospitals; and, the culture is one of moving unnecessarily slowly to change any of the above or make urgent decisions to increase capacity.

And, nobody in charge seems to realize any of that, or if they do, feel the need to change any of it.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

The vaccine procurement will remain difficult for some months, but at least the necessary logistics can be provided quickly. I do not assume that Japan will allow drive-through vaccination, but they can build up vaccination centers in public buildings or gyms. The government should supply vaccines to these vaccination centers, hospitals, bigger companies and to pharmacies. From the pharmacies the vaccines can be distributed to (private) clinics for vaccination. The medical systems of the bigger companies are already established. Retired doctors and nurses, other volunteers and military staff can run the vaccination centers which are admittingly pretty expensive. But the hospitals, clinics and pharmacies want to earn money, they will more and more take over from the vaccination centers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The worst is that there will always people that will disregard the daily deaths from COVID and will say that Japan is fine without vaccinating. That is false, many of the deaths are completely preventable, with vaccines that are safe and effective. But for people with an irrational interest in trying to convince others that vaccines can only be bad those deaths are something insignificant...

Fortunately there are people for which those deaths actually have meaning, too bad that in Japan they have to work against a petrified process to prevent them.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Vaccinate where Japanese are. Make it easy to get.

Start in senior centers and branch out from there, working backwards from the most likely to have serious covid complications. Lacking any other knowledge, use age.

Setup "pop-up" centers near train stations and subways in urban locations as working people age into the groups to be vaccinated.

Right now, the j-govt should be getting lists of people in each locality organized by prority so they know who to target with communications, when. Ask people where they'd like to get vaccinated. Websites and phone call centers are needed to communicate. Not everyone will use a computer or smartphone. Assuming they will missed lots of vulnerable people in the US.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

People need a good reason to get vaccinated. Let people know they can get rid of the mask.

Those that are hesitant to get it, and there are many along the political spectrum, will not take the risk otherwise.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Well-written article but skirts around the real problems. The govt deliberately delayed the rollout so it could conduct a 200-300 person trial with no clinical value, just political and image value. Other g7 countries dont do this sort of thing.

Then the disconnected, private-sector institutions and their staff who are reluctant and uninterested in cooperating in a rollout. A media that obsesses over 1 in 10 million risk cases. Also, lack of innovation and imagination from the outset, such as using parking lots and the drive-thru centers as in the US, shopping centers, etc., as so many of Japan's elderly live in provincial regions where cars are the main transport and the shopping centers are huge. Even in Tokyo, there's a huge MacDonald's drive-thru near by home that's wildly popular.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

JeffLee...... They had no choice, it the law to conduct these trials. All part of protectionism to help Japanese drug companies, but this time the law bites them in the rump.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Is it a case of the Turtle and the hare ? The USA has issued 100 million in 3 months. I will predict that Japan will have all it citizen vaccinated before the USA.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

People need a good reason to get vaccinated.

3M dead isn't a good enough reason?

143M confirmed cases?

All the vaccines help to massively reduce complications when people do become infected with a nearly zero chance of being hospitalized post-vaccination.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Because the US is further along, there are some interesting numbers from the 2nd week in April:

75 million people fully vaccinated.

5,814 reports of coronavirus infections in that huge group.

396 people were hospitalized by these "breakthrough infections" and 1/3 of those people were in hospital for other health issues. They happened to test positive for COVID.

Most of the cases have been mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic.

Reference: https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/21/22395551/covid-vaccine-breakthrough-infection-rare-cdc

Good enough reason to be vaccinated?

10 ( +10 / -0 )

The local antivax squad not yet doing their propaganda run? Let see how many I get before them

covid is a cold and nobody dies so you dont need vaccines

covid only kills because my favorite useless drug is not used, doctors kill people to force the vaccines

one out of a thousand vaccinated people still get covid, so it is not 100% efficient, which means its 0%

vaccines were not tested to my liking so you should ignore the millions of people already vaccinated safely

vaccinated people die of unrelated problems the same as unvaccinated people but somehow its because of the vaccine.

etc. etc.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I think the main reason is that while containing the virus in Japan has so far taken next-to-no government action, government action will be required to get people vaccinated. The current regime is completely incapable of this action.

Sending out some badly made and ill-fitting masks several weeks late is the level of government competence.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The Japanese government has been embarrassingly slow and inept in dealing with the COVID pandemic since the very beginning. The only reason Japan never had a major outbreak like Italy or NYC is because Japanese residents have all been wearing masks at extremely high rates (95%+) since the pandemic started. Basically, the government lucked out that masks were very effective at containing the spread and that Japan already had a culture of wearing masks.

Regarding the horrible vaccination roll-out: Japan's requirement to have trials completed within Japan is stupid, but at least somewhat understandable. However, the government knew about that issue from and very beginning and should have been working with all major vaccine developers (Moderna, Pfizer, J&J, AstraZenica, etc.) to start trials in Japan LAST SUMMER when Phase III trials were starting elsewhere. Instead, the Japanese government put up additional barriers that made in country trials more difficult.

The government should also have anticipated global vaccine supply issues and more deals with all the companies above for in-country production of vaccines. They did that with AstraZenica, but that vaccine is still dealing with issues and hasn't gotten off the ground yet.

People talk about the deaths, but the main thing is that the economic impact of the pandemic is costing the Japanese economy trillions of yen every month. The slower the vaccination roll-out the higher the long term economic costs. The government should have spent tens of billions (USD) more money expediting vaccine trials and in-country manufacturing (with the companies listed above). But they didn't. Instead, they've been dragging their heals at every step of the process.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

As results proved, vaccinated does not mean, there will be no side effects.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

What vaccine?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I’m sorry Tara Tan - what is your point ?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It is shocking to watch the incompetence of the vaccination drive in Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

One of the commenters made the point that Japan may have full vaccination before the US. That is certainly possible, since a lot of Americans, mostly in politically right-wing areas, are refusing to get the shots. The best we can hope for over here is that enough get vaccinated to prevent the huge surges in cases that we are now seeing in India and Brazil.

That people would refuse to protect their health for political reasons seems to me bizarre. But, polls do show that educated people, scientists and engineers in particular, overwhelmingly reject the American right wing party. Fully 94% of that demographic do not identify as Republican.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Thank goodness vaccinations are low in Japan. Why would anyone take an injection of a substance that has not been tested and where the drug manufacturers can't be sued if someone's health is damaged or they die from it.

There is a simple cure for Covid and it is called " Ivermectin ". It is cheap and will stop Covid in it's tracks after taking just a few tablets. However, it seems that the powers to be don't want people to obtain this parasitic drug and try to ban it. It is the same for Hydroxychloroquine which also works against the virus.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )


I daresay Japan has even fallen behind South Korea

I don't think South Korea was EVER behind Japan.


There is a simple cure for Covid and it is called " Ivermectin ". It is cheap and will stop Covid in it's tracks after taking just a few tablets.

Do we wash that down with a cup of bleach or will plain water just do?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

“Drive-through vaccination” is one option for speeding things up, Playboy suggests. It seems to be working well in Texas, and was underway in a hospital parking lot in the Gifu Prefecture town of Kasamatsu.

Drive-through testing never took off and testing has been and still remains super low even more than a year

after the pandemic started . How can anyone expect the contrary with vaccines especially vaccines that are not Made in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Vaccinations are progressing really well here in the States. I hope that we can rapidly become the supplier to the rest of the world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Japenese Politicians need to learn to act and cut red tape and their attidudte that Covid is a "foreigner" problem. The blatant racism you encounter in Japan in this epidemic make me wonder why such a country gets the right to hold the Olympics? I am gonna boycott them and wont watch a single minute !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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