Japan trails world in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Apr 12 , 2021. 1 hour ago – 09:08 KYODO NEWS

Cargo containing Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine is loaded onto a truck at Narita airport near Tokyo on April 5, 2021, after its arrival from Belgium via an All Nippon Airways plane. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

TOKYO – Japan’s coronavirus inoculation campaign has been progressing slowly, with over 99 percent of the population yet to receive a shot about two months after its start, trailing many developed nations.

Japan, which currently completely depends on imports for its coronavirus vaccine supply, began inoculating about 36 million seniors aged 65 or older on Monday after beginning its campaign with health care workers on Feb. 17. The elderly account for around 29 percent of Japan’s population.

Out of Japan’s 4.8 million healthcare workers, about 1.1 million — equivalent to about 0.87 percent of the population — had received at least one dose as of Friday, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Some advanced nations are way ahead of Japan in terms of COVID-19 vaccinations, according to data gathered by researchers at the University of Oxford.

Our World in Data, produced by a research team based at the university, showed that over 61 percent of the population in Israel had received at least one vaccine dose as of April 8, while the rate stood at 47 percent in Britain, around 34 percent in the United States, and around 15 percent in Germany.

Multiple factors are believed to be behind the slow progress of the vaccination program in Japan, where domestic makers have been slow in their efforts to develop coronavirus vaccines.

Among the reasons is that Japanese authorities only gave their first approval to a vaccine — the one developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. — about two months after Europe and the United States did so, according to critics.

An additional factor is that Japan currently relies exclusively on the European Union for shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, and EU approval is needed for each shipment.