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A Tokyo hospital worker checks the temperature of Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine with delivery staff at a hospital in Tokyo. Image: AP file

Japan's unused 14 mil doses of COVID-19 vaccines point to logistical hurdles

By Rocky Swift

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"Japan's unused 14 mil doses of COVID-19 vaccines point to logistical hurdles"

No it doesn't. It points to gross incompetence.

52 ( +54 / -2 )

So the bottleneck now is notifying elderly residents? This will take years.

28 ( +30 / -2 )

Only 14 million doses for a population of 125 mil? We can't use those now. That would be unfair!!

24 ( +25 / -1 )

I thought it was the EU's supply that was the issue...

Looks like they will have to start throwing away vaccines soon, since the shelf-life is at most 6 weeks.

don't worry, they'll find someone else to blame soon

27 ( +27 / -0 )

17 million doses = 8.5 million people. Drop in the bucket! Pathetic and sad. Japan has entered the third world. Besides Argentina, this is the only other country to go backwards into the future.

30 ( +31 / -1 )

Clearly people here just don't know what to do. Maybe we should invite someone from another country to come and educate us. Again

31 ( +32 / -1 )

They can’t start rolling it all out because come the Olympics they’d have to suddenly slow down the rate of vaccinations because of all the doctors and nurses who will be reassigned to Olympic duty.

Therefore the decision has been made to delay and make excuses until after the Olympics.

23 ( +23 / -0 )

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can last up to six months frozen. Once thawed, Pfizer's can be kept in a refrigerator for five days and Moderna's for 30 days.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

NHK had a report this week on a village that received all its doses. But it has to wait for around 2 weeks at least for it can begin the shots, as it still needs to hire staff who would accompany people home if they had side-effects. Unbelievable.

26 ( +26 / -0 )

Imagine what the situation would be without a vaccine minister, Is there any other country in

the universe with a vaccine minister ?

24 ( +24 / -0 )

One year to prepare. Amazingly out of this world.

22 ( +23 / -1 )

Come on J-Gov. Maybe the little guys up north need to show you how to do things. We have had a plan in place in my little hamlet for a while now and we have been innoculating those over 65 (3918 residents or 44% of our town's population) at a rate of just under 150 a day since starting Wednesday. This includes innoculating everyday even on weekends and holidays. Those at the greatest risk in our town should have their first shot, which will offer some protection, within a month. We start with the outlying areas first, getting them to the center of town to the group innoculation center and once they receive the shots, then they will begin giving the shot to those living in the main part of town.

This includes my kids' 72 year old grandparents and their 92 year old great grandmother.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

This seems like a collection of bottlenecks, somewhat understandable... if they had a month or so to prepare.

After a year of expecting the vaccines, plans and decisions are being made only on the last few days? that has no justification.

35 ( +35 / -0 )

There are signs the government is feeling the heat to speed up its vaccine push.

Finally, there are signs......

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Such incompetence.

Sometimes it feels like there's more focus on the Olympics than getting the people vaccinated.

Come on. Priorities please, Mr Suga.

24 ( +25 / -1 )

Looks like all those simulations paid off.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Notice how Japanese government getting zero blame for this? Only the population and doctors are to blame. Any comments that remotely suggest that the JP government is not the best of the best of the best on covid response gets immediately removed here.

With the whole media stuck singing praises to the government, no wonder there’s no improvement or sense of urgency in the JP national government. I would be stunned if the general population can gets its vaccines before 2023. It would take until AT LEAST late 2022 for japan to finish vaccinating its seniors.

20 ( +21 / -1 )

They have had a number of practice sessions, using a pencil instead of a hypodermic needle!

The only bottlenecks that these ministers and bureaucrats see are wine bottles with their names on in hostess bars and steak houses!

16 ( +16 / -0 )

It is so amazing that after more than a year the JP government is so ill prepared to role out the vaccins.

People need and want to travel freely and this vaccin has become mandatory to go back to 'normal'. So instead of organising the worst OC ever, focus on role out. Use of armed forces and medics all over. It is very simple to add these vaccins. Japan can do much better than this. But in so many ways, it is going more and more backwards. Sad to see the great country failing is most essential thing.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

You know what the real problem is? The Doctors DON'T TRUST THE VACCINE! This is why it is not being administered the way it should. It is not a logistical nightmare...

-30 ( +2 / -32 )

"Logistical hurdles" is a nice euphemism for "complete and criminal incompetence on a governmental level".

20 ( +21 / -1 )

Ahh, give us some good news for change, I’m sure there is some out there.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

But it has inoculated only 1.6% of its population so far, the slowest among wealthy countries.

"Wealthy Countries" People in Japan are not paid well at all compared to the west...The average salary in Japan was $30k in 2019. In the US the average salary was $94k. Japan puts these labels on themselves. This means in Japan if husband and wife work they make less than ¥6 million because woman don't get paid the same...while in America a husband, and a wife both make close to 200k a year.

With that being said..who is wealthy in Japan? Wealthy in Japan is not the same as "Wealthy" in the US.

-21 ( +2 / -23 )

As other posters have said Japan has had a bit of time to prepare for this what’s going on?

I had my first dose at a convention centre in Perth, registered with my ID, answered a few questions from a nurse, asked a couple of questions in return, had the jab, was monitored for 15 minutes with others, free drink and left. Whole process took about half an hour all up.

Come on Japan you can do it. Use pharmacists/nurses/midwives/ defence force as well!

17 ( +17 / -0 )

We are doomed ! This won't happened ! Not in June , Not this winter ...

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"Wealthy Countries" People in Japan are not paid well at all compared to the west...The average salary in Japan was $30k in 2019. In the US the average salary was $94k. 

PIA, first you might want check your facts and supply some sources. Second learn the difference between average and median. Third, the median income in some EU countries is higher than the US, but that doesn't say that much about usable income, the tax pressure is much higher in most cases.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

If a drug addict can regularly inject themselves with no training, can’t be so specialized

I was trained in an afternoon when in the Army, it’s a pretty simple action.

piercing an ear is probably harder.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

The Doctors DON'T TRUST THE VACCINE! This is why it is not being administered the way it should. It is not a logistical nightmare...

This is false and malicious.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

As others have said it doesn’t need a medical education to give this injection. Volunteers with some basic training (very basic) could do it. Everyone knew the only way out of the pandemic was going to be a vaccine so why after more than a year to prepare ate the Japanese government still floundering around like a beached whale making it up as they go along?

Like AustPaul in Perth my experience in the UK was smooth and simple, received my appointment via my GP, went to the health centre in town being used as the vaccination centre (free car parking arranged and volunteers to guide and assist those needing it) details taken on entry (no need for ID) shown to cubicle, 2 people one asked and entered on computer a couple of standard medical questions, the other vaccinated me, shown to a waiting area for 15 minutes (sadly no free drink you lucky devil AustPaul!) and sent on my merry way.

Simple locally based organisation like this shouldn’t be a problem in any advanced or even third world country.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

In Japan fewer than 2% of the population has been vaccinated. Let me point something out.....in Seattle, Washington, as of two days ago, 41% of those 18 and over, and 78% of those over 65, are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the New York Times. And yet, Governor Inslee is re-instating a partial lockdown of King County as of April 30, because of a surge in Covid-19 cases in the area. The point being that Japan has a long ways to go before it will be safe from undergoing another surge in covid cases.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

blahblah222Today  04:59 pm JST

Notice how Japanese government getting zero blame for this? Only the population and doctors are to blame. Any comments that remotely suggest that the JP government is not the best of the best of the best on covid response gets immediately removed here.

Nonsense. There are at least a dozen comments in this thread either directly or indirectly criticising the government.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Logistical hurdles ?

inept in competent criminal

and PIA your comment at 5.41 I find very alarming - Doctors refusing to accept a vaccine !

I would sack you simple

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Because on top of being the least effective, most dangerous and most expensive of the 4 main vaccines (Sputnik V, Sinopharm, Moderna, Pfizer), it's also extremely problematic to deploy! Yet, this is thus far the only vaccine Japan has approved! Something is going on here. Even for the government of an occupied country, this is weird. Has Pfizer been passing out brown envelopes in Japan?

Sinopharm, the second most effective vaccine (after #1 Sputnik V) was told to not even both submitting it for approval in Japan! China is by far Japan's No.1. trading partner. It's not like there's an embargo on Chinese goods yet, won't even by considered by Japan.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

 The point being that Japan has a long ways to go before it will be safe from undergoing another surge in covid cases.

Another surge? Shucks, give us time to get into the swing of the current one, will you? (see Active cases:)


...But I think we can all agree that Japan has a looong way to go.

But it has inoculated only 1.6% of its population so far, the slowest among wealthy countries.

... and as of today currently also slower than 59 'developing' countries. It has powered past Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago and Senegal, and is level pegging with Laos, just a whisker behind North Macedonia

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/world/covid-vaccinations-tracker.html

8 ( +8 / -0 )


Don’t get too excited it was just a juice, nothing stronger!

Japan is efficient in many ways, eg public transport, maybe they should put the experts at JR onto this?

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Wait !

If the problem isn't small -70 degrees capable freezers that can be used everywhere could it be the cost ?

Maybe the doctors in the small hospitals here and there are asking too much ? Like 50K per shot !

Why is the government opting for big vaccination centres and the SDF?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@borschtToday  05:36 pm JST

On the other hand, a non-doctor said the J-government is waiting for a J-vaccine so everyone connected to J-pharmacy (and LDP) can make money; plus the Citizens will trust a J-vaccine over one that has proven effective.

Exactly! You hit the nail on the head!

9 ( +10 / -1 )

This a cultural problem quite unique to Japan.

No one wants to take responsibility and no one knows what to do.

Time decides the outcome and results.

It's a frustrating and pathetic approach to a serious problem.

This is Japan.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

What an utter embarrassment.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

hand the whole logistical exercise over to Yamato and Sagawa,,,,, and the jabbing to anyone who knows how: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists.... but of course that would never do, because the bakufu want to keep tight control on everything, as they ever did... the trouble with keeping a stranglehold on a society though, is that eventually it will die.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

As my good friend Sahib said,:

Let Lawson's handle it.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

"Logistic hurdles"? Sounds more like sloppiness--or hoarding for specific interests.

Kill the Olympics and it is likely we will have more than enough of the anti-COVID medication.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

"logistical hurdles" my w!nking r!np!ece.

14 million unused vaccinations point to criminal incompetence.

The vaccine is here, ready to be deployed, but nobody has the spine to take responsibility for deploying it.

Woeful, shameful negligence - and people will die.

But never mind - Let's Heartful Orinpic!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Maybe they can invent a robot, or a pokemon, or a new tenga or something to give the vaccines.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I hate feeling helpless like this and can't do anything but wait for slow moving dinosaurs in the government and doctors.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Just name a time and a place. I'll jab circles around these slowpokes. All I need is a white doctor's jacket and one of those headbands with a mirror.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is only a very small example for the much bigger background problem, that this theory of planned and successful paralleled downsizing of population, economy and society activities through age pyramid deformation cannot and doesn’t work.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Interesting question why is it that the guys in the blue work clothes wearing white gives and the medical personnel not?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Article says has been decided dentists can administer shots. Well my dentist was saying he couldn't even manage register online for the vaccine they promised him as a health worker. The page kept crashing and had to re-input all information each time and the thing wouldn't save properly. He gave up.

He'll be happy to know that he'll be able to administer shots though. He can start with himself first.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Its simple ship the vaccines to each ward and have the citizens go to specific areas to get shots. In the US they do drive up and drive through. Come on Japan don't hoard the medicine for the athletes and government for the Olympics!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

"Logistic hurdles"? Try giving shot out at 7-11 or Lawson! Why not an AKB48 concert!!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Its simple ship the vaccines to each ward and have the citizens go to specific areas to get shots.

No, we can't make it that simple.

We need to make reservations online, and confirmation by calling, then fax the reservation form, fill up, fax back, wait one day for processing (very fast), get schedule through post mail, return agreement of the schedule by post mail, wait for the call after one day (also very fast).

On the day of the jab, bring the schedule post card, fill up health form - oops you have to do this ahead online, go back home, fill up the health form online - go back to the site, take the doctor's interview, and then you can finally get the vaccine.

True story.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

If only the authorities had some kind of warning, time to prepare...........

9 ( +9 / -0 )

But wait: I thought Japan couldn't start a vaccination drive yet because the big, bad gaikuku countries wouldn't give Japan the medicine yet...

9 ( +9 / -0 )

That extensive vaccination will be difficult was already known since last year.

But incompetent Suga government of Japan only expected end of Covid-19 with do nothing, had neglected preparation.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

By comparison, South Korea, which began its inoculation campaign after Japan, has administered two thirds of 3.87 million doses

Hmmm... Okay, so South Korea had 3.87 and has administered two thirds, so 2.58 million doses.

Japan has administered about one fifth of 14 million, so about 2.8 million doses.

While SK has certainly vaccinated about double when you talk percentage of population, the roll-out speeds are rather comparable, imo. I'm sure Korean's are complaining as much as the Japanese are.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What a fake. There are no distribution hurdles or a lack of staff. Just setting up a mobile vaccination team at every highway’s PA / SA , those few parking areas, will do. You can vaccinate thousands everyday, just driving through, and that can be done by a minimum of staff, one computer operator for administration, one assistant filling the syringe and one nurse or doctor vaccinating. One reserve team present and waiting, shift change after one or two hours. Only an example, how you can vaccinate the whole country in some days with only some hundreds of staff needed. But the point seems to be, that there is only absolutely no willingness of a quick, pragmatic and effective solution for these problems.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

This is far too slow.

Pfizer has a 10-15 min wait after to check for allergic reactions. With AZ (if they ever get around to clearing it) you can be done in 60 seconds and you don't need the extremely cold storage. Volunteers can be trained to give injections if need be.

The main bottlenecks in Japan seem to be the lack of an emergency licensing procedure and inadequate healthcare logistics.

I doubt there is another country that actually has such an excess of vaccine that they have failed to use. Don't let any go to waste. If it is approaching its use-by date, pass it on to India if you cannot use it.

The LDP operate upon the basis that they will win elections regardless of what they do. If they mess up the vaccination roll out, they might not win the next one. Lockdowns cost money and votes.

In the UK, more than 33 million adults (64.3%) have received their first vaccine dose, as of the end of Monday. And more than 13 million people (25.1%) have been fully vaccinated. Preparations are now being made for a booster shot in the Winter.

The total number with antibodies is higher, as it includes those who have had covid.

Evidence from Israel and the UK suggests that vaccinations are keeping hospital admissions low, post-lockdown. In short, the vaccinations are working. After 16 months, we are now winning.

Get on with it.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Get all those doses into different people ASAP! 70-75% effective after 1 shot is a big deal.

The 2nd dose comes 3-6 weeks later and certainly 14M doses will have arrived by then.

GBR48: Evidence from Israel and the UK suggests that vaccinations are keeping hospital admissions low, post-lockdown. In short, the vaccinations are working.

In the US, there's a 94% drop in COVID hospitalizations for people fully vaccinated over age 65. Of course, older people still get hospitalized for non-Covid issues.

With Pfizer, I had a sore arm after the first dose and NO issues, not even a sore arm, after the 2nd. Some people feel sick for a few days after the 2nd Pfizer. One of my sisters did, but she and I have different blood types. Don't know that it matters, just something we discussed.

Pfizer has a 6-month storage time at the storage temperature. Japan should have many storage facilities capable of that, but for now, they just need to line people up and get shots in the arms until there aren't any more thawed for that day. The US was putting 3.3M shots in arms every day at peak times. Japan should be able to ramp up to 1M/day.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japanese regulations say only doctors or nurses can administer the injections. The health ministry last week decided that dentists may also deliver shots.

This is the problem with government- so bureaucratic and risk averse they cannot make rational decisions even in a crisis. Just about any normal adult can be trained to give a simple shot. Hire volunteers, this isn’t rocket science.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"Wealthy Countries" People in Japan are not paid well at all compared to the west...The average salary in Japan was $30k in 2019. "

The "average" salary in the UK (2020) was "£38,600 for a full-time role and £13,803 for part-time role"

In 2019 it was £36,611 and part-time at £12,495.

In Germany EUR 42.400 thousand.

France: 39,099 euros in 2019.

Sweden: EUR 32,800 but EUR 25,355 after tax.

"In the US the average salary was $94k."

Not even going to bother checking; just looking at the figure you've quoted anyone can smell the stench of a gigantic fib.

"Japan puts these labels on themselves"

No, it's you who don't know what you're saying.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Don't you just love a country with so much corruption, nepotism and bribery, that when it comes time for things to actually get done, the highly unqualified "management heads" prove how useless they can be? So sad.

This is why you hire people based on skill, not BS.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Hate to say this but, I would rather see these doses go to other desperate nations. Obviously Japan is NOT desperate.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

KONO you are FIRED!!!

Man oh man my blood I think is boiling like never before & I can tell after being here 30+yrs I have been ticked off a million times EASY!!

This is such a massive case of GROSS incompetence it is just out of this world.

CLEARLY the govt has been HIDING the fact about how many vaccines they have been sitting on, this is way way off the charts, people should be jailed for this kind of thing!

8 ( +8 / -0 )


You're so-called "#1 Sputnik V" just got rejected in Brazil because it was contaminated with cold virus. You think you could take a moment to stop spamming the comments about your inferior vaccine?

Health regulators in Brazil say that doses of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine contain a cold-causing virus capable of replicating in human cells.

The unintended presence of the virus in the vaccine can “lead to infections in humans and can cause damage and death, especially in people with low immunity and respiratory problems, among other health problems,” Brazil’s Health Regulatory Agency, Anvisa, said Wednesday in a translated statement.

No wonder Russian citizens don't trust that vaccine.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I feel sorry for all the posters in Japan that are having to put up with the ineptitude that is on display.

Cases in Japan are on the up and if a more infectious variant appears then that could be a real problem-I hope not not...

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This is just ridiculous beyond belief.

How is it possible that you need a whole month for the JGSDF to set up a mass vaccination site in Tokyo? Those military guys are trained to deploy enough logistics for anything in almost no time at all, and I'm sure they are begging to be more helpful on the field right now. They can set up more than one mass vaccination site out of stadiums and convention centers in the Tokyo Metropolitan area if any.

As for municipalities that may be a little more remote or that may have less accessibility to medical services, it could be as simple as to mobilize a mobile vaccination clinic on a bus that reaches those municipalities. If necessary, get a truck with loud speakers to warn residents of the mobile clinic's arrival. It has been done in many Western countries, and they also mobilize the army if necessary. If people still don't want to get their shot after deploying resources on the field, then move onto the next place.

As for personel, don't get me started. You should have given the right for dentists and pharmacists to vaccinate a while ago. Even paramedics and other people (military personel) can be trained to inject a dose in an arm. This is no time to bother about reserved acts for doctors and nurses only.

Sheer stupidity all around. Do me favor.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians, nursing students, ,medical students, nursing home care staff, retired (any of the above)....all can give vaccines.

Walk-in clinics anyone? No need for postcards in the mail or online registration. Show up, get poked, get a "proof of poke" paper with the date to get a second dose, repeat. Japan has a great talent to take something easy and complicate it beyond recognition.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Let the US military do it.

6 weeks. DONE.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Occam's Razor would put it down to a simple lack of competence among those responsible for the vaccine rollout.

Hanlon's razor would be more appropriate then.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The government had a year to get ready for this??? Suga is absolutely worthless....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Logistical problem??? NO,NO,NO It is a complete and utter incompetence that's what it is!!!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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