Medical workers wait for consultation after receiving a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Tokyo Medical Center in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: Behrouz Mehri/Pool via AP
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Japan begins vaccination drive, but why so late?

31 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

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31 Comments
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"Japan’s mistrust of vaccines is decades old. Many people have a vague unease about vaccines, partly because their side effects have often been played up."

I have a vague unease about how many people hear something, do absolutely no research on it, and take it as gospel.

"More recently, Japan stopped recommending the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine after media reports of alleged side effects, renewing worries despite the vaccine's widespread use overseas as safe and effective protection for cervical cancer."

Were those "media reports" made to cite their sources? What would Japan do if their media were to suddenly find "alleged side effects" with MMR, polio, or smallpox vaccines?

13 ( +18 / -5 )

Some critics are questioning whether the additional tests on only 160 Japanese people added anything — except more delay.

Excellent question. And what about the other 400,000 Pfizer vaccines that arrived last Friday? A portion has been allocated to 40,000 front-line medical workers. What about the other 300,000+ doses?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

The fact that the experimental vaccine is not licensed might be a good reason for the "delay"

taken from Pfizers own website....

"The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)"

7 ( +13 / -6 )

Another unmentioned reason for the delay to the general population is because of how the vaccine distribution will be handled by the local municipal governments.

Obviously, these local governments need to know how many people and who specifically lives in their defined area in order to arrange the correct amount of vaccine and to contact people for vaccination.

However, in late-March to early-April a broad swath of the population tends to re-locate at this time due to school, starting jobs, changing jobs, re-locating for job, or retirement.

Therefore, its the unspoken policy for vaccination to let people re-settle before starting what will already be a logistical headache on its own.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japan began its COVID-19 vaccination campaign Wednesday after the government gave belated first approval to a shot co-developed by Pfizer Inc that the U.S. and many other countries started using two months ago.

"Co-developed" the inference is that what? Pfizer co-developed it with a Japanese company? THe writers here should be very specific about who developed it with Pfizer and not leave it open to speculation!

Just like the government had to "wait" to get approval, AFTER they ordered literally millions of doses of the vaccine.

It's not about vaccinating the people, it's about MONEY once again!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Japan administrates less vaccines than the western countries, that’s a fact. But I think Japanese take much more over the counter medicines.

A few years back, I had the meningitis vaccine before an overseas trip. I was proposed an overseas one and a Japanese one much less expensive. I had more trust in the overseas one. Everything is a question of trust. For sure, old vaccines have proven their efficiency and we do not question anything

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My wife was rubbing it in a bit with her family back home in Japan when she got her shot a month ago or so (healthcare worker).

It sounded like nobody had a clue when they'd be getting theirs over there.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

because their side effects have often been played up.

"played up" ???

Disgusting.

Some children have died, are you gonna tell their parents not to "play up" their deaths.

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

why so late? Because it seems to me Japan doesn't need such a big hurry to get the vaccine, if compared with America, European countries and others.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

I have an issue with the term Asian. Asia is huge.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

"Co-developed" the inference is that what? Pfizer co-developed it with a Japanese company? THe writers here should be very specific about who developed it with Pfizer and not leave it open to speculation!

It was co-developed with BioNTech in Germany. Is this news to you? Their vaccine has been commonly referred to as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for many months.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@SandyBeachHeaven

In terms public health no it isn't. To all intents, constructions and purposes "Asian" is sufficient for public health actions.

A Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc. living in America have virtual identical health outcomes when adjusted for external factors. An asian and a caucasians do not.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

"Japan begins vaccination drive, but why so late?"

Interesting headline. Is Japan the only country that is "late"? Lets see:

Australia will start next week:

Australia's COVID vaccine rollout will soon begin.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-17/australia-covid-vaccine-rollout-lessons-from-other-countries/13155128

So it looks like Japan is not the only country that is starting this month. I wonder why Japan is getting flak when other countries are doing exactly the same thing. Double standard?

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

"it's mostly because the government asked for clinical testing in Japan in addition to Pfizer's multinational tests, which did not include Japan."

Question? Why did not Pfizer include Japan in its clinical testing? The so called multinational test was only the US and Canada.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Like many I just cant understand the plodding along and the non priority attitude that the government seems to have with the pandemic. Just sort it out already.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm wondering how long the public release will take and who will have access to vaccinations when it does.

I am a foreign resident working in English Language schools where I regularly come into close contact with my clients. The physical situation of many of my classes is custom-made for spreading viruses, but as I am not in a medical field (and a non-citizen) I fear that people like me will simply be left out of the loop.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Interesting headline. Is Japan the only country that is "late"? Lets see:Australia will start next week: I wonder why Japan is getting flak when other countries are doing exactly the same thing. Double standard?"

You conveniently forget to mention Australia as one of the most successful countries has covid pretty much under control ( unlike Japan ) with a handful of cases despite massive testing that dwarfs Japan,s "efforts". They can afford to be "late". Double standards much?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

@HimariYamada

Interesting headline. Is Japan the only country that is "late"? Lets see:

Australia will start next week:

The vaccine is not a priority because Australia has handled covid pretty well comparatively.

And we don't have an Olympics in 5 months.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/16/australias-covid-vaccine-rollout-how-will-it-happen-and-when-can-you-get-it

Furthermore, Australia hopes to have everyone who wants to be vaccinated immunised by the end of October.

That's 16.5million people in 8 months.

Not bad for a "late" country.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

"played up" ???

Disgusting.

Some children have died, are you gonna tell their parents not to "play up" their deaths.

"Played up" is completely adequate. When very preliminary data raised the possibility that the vaccine may have been related with risks Japanese media and officials played it up as if it were a confirmed thing, at the end studies demonstrated that the risk was the same with or without vaccines, but that was never promoted in the media, as a result lives were lost completely unnecessarily, for the HPV vaccine the lack of vaccination is correlated to more than 5000 extra deaths because of cervical cancer.

Question? Why did not Pfizer include Japan in its clinical testing? The so called multinational test was only the US and Canada.

Mostly because approval for the clinical testing is a hell of its own, the best strategy any company can have to apply for testing in Japan is to have its products already tested and approved overseas first, then apply in Japan.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

"the best strategy any company can have to apply for testing in Japan is to have its products already tested and approved overseas first, then apply in Japan."

No its not. The smart play is apply and run the testing in the Major markets first. Pfizer, like a lot foreign companies was just lazy and did not want to spend the resources in Japan.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Yesterday they only vaccinated 125 people (on the ministry of health site). This is absolutely abysmal, we should be moving with much more haste. What's wrong with Japan??

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I have an issue with the term Asian. Asia is huge.

I agree. Same comment regarding the term gaijin. With low mortality from coronavirus, I guess many Japanese may not be convinced that a gaijin vaccine is necessary.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

No its not. The smart play is apply and run the testing in the Major markets first. Pfizer, like a lot foreign companies was just lazy and did not want to spend the resources in Japan.

Yes it is, there is absolutely no point on applying to the Japanese approval system (not for the use in the general public, approval to run clinical trials) without securing first the final approval in the US and Europe.

It is counterintuitive and retrograde but that is how the overly protectionist system in Japan works. You will not get an approval to check the safety of something on Japanese people without first proving that your product is safe overseas, which make the Japanese trials superfluous. It is almost completely meaningless.

So applying exactly at the same time to run the phase I, II and III trials in Japan as in the rest of the world would mean no time would be saved, because the application is almost guaranteed to be rejected with a recommendation to apply again... after getting results from safety overseas. This is even more true with anything based on mRNA technology, with almost no clinical trials approved in Japan, even for diseases that mean certain death of the patient.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Even if we have idiots as leaders, it is great to have a wait and see outlook, with closed borders.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Sure Japan is late, but it's no big problem. It's not, shouldn't be a competition. Japan's virus situation is different from that in Israel, EU, UK, US, to name a few. We've already seen unethical, very ugly vax politics played out. I don't want Japan to get involved there. Let it focus on what it should do now in line with own time table.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Interesting headline. Is Japan the only country that is "late"? Lets see:

Australia will start next week

Why is Australia late also?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Perhaps the word "late" is misleading. Just because you are not "first" does not make you late.

However, I don't know why the government in Japan wanted extra testing. The vaccines effectness has been tried, tested and proven.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What would Japan do if their media were to suddenly find "alleged side effects" with MMR

There was a whole thing here about the combined MMR vaccine when it was introduced 30 years ago. That's why they now only do the jabs separately.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Experts say vaccine development in Japan has become an unpopular research area because of risks, the time-consuming process and a lack of government funding"

No, because Japanese vaccines industry is run by a few protected politically-connected companies, which even Japanese pharmaceutical companies MUST sign co-marketing or co-development agreements if they even hope that their vaccine can have a fair approval and distribution chance.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Perhaps the word "late" is misleading. Just because you are not "first" does not make you late.

Indeed. Japan does not have the same urgency many other countries have. The FDA allowed Emergency Use Authorization for the experimental vaccines because many people were dying and no effective treatments were available (they made sure effected treatments were rejected). Not as many people are dying here.

However, I don't know why the government in Japan wanted extra testing. The vaccines effectness has been tried, tested and proven.

Safety is still an issue, especially long term.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Safety is still an issue, especially long term.

Safety is always an issue, that is why vaccines are so safe right now, that does not change the fact that at this point vaccination means less risk at short, mid and long term than the COVID infection.

Effective treatments have not been blocked, dirt cheap drugs like dexamethasone prove it, the only drugs that are not in use now are those that proved not to represent any benefit, at least on proper trials not manipulated by unethical authors with other interests above the health of their patients.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

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