Japan Starts COVID-19 Vaccinations With Eye on Olympics – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Japan launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign on Wednesday, months after other major economies fired shots and wondered whether the campaign would reach people fast enough to save the Summer Olympics, already delayed by the pandemic.

Despite the recent surge in infections, Japan has largely dodged the type of disaster that has ravaged the economies, social networks, and health systems of other wealthy countries. But the fate of the Olympics and the billions of dollars make Japan’s vaccination campaign crucial. Japanese officials are also aware that rival China, which has managed to fight the virus, will host the Winter Olympics next year, adding to the desire for the Tokyo Games to take place.

Japan’s rollout lagged behind elsewhere as vaccine maker Pfizer was asked to conduct clinical trials with Japanese people in addition to tests already being done in six other countries – part of an effort to address concerns in a country with low vaccination confidence.

That long-standing reluctance to take vaccines – usually for fear of rare side effects – as well as concerns about the shortage of imported vaccines are now related to the introduction that will give first doctors, then the elderly and vulnerable, and then shots. possibly late spring or early summer, the rest of the population.

Medical workers say vaccinations will help protect them and their families, and business leaders hope the efforts will bring economic activities back to normal. However, the late rollout will make it impossible to achieve so-called herd immunity in the country of 127 million people before the start of the Olympic Games in July, experts say.

Officials will find it difficult to suppress the widespread caution – and even outright opposition – of citizens to hosting the Games. Around 80% of those questioned in the latest media surveys support the cancellation or further postponement of the Olympic Games.

Nonetheless, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and other members of his government are pushing the Olympic plans forward and accounting for the Games as “proof of human victory over the pandemic”.

Japan hasn’t seen the massive outbreaks that have struck the United States and many European countries, but a surge in cases in December and January gave cause for concern and resulted in a partial state of emergency that included calls for restaurants and bars to close early . Suga has seen his support drop from around 70% when he took office in September to below 40%. Many people said he was too slow to impose restrictions and that they were too careless.

The country currently has an average of 1 infection per 100,000 people – compared to 24.5 in the US or 18 in the UK. Overall, Japan has recorded about 420,000 cases and 7,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In a room full of journalists, Dr. Kazuhiro Araki, president of Tokyo Medical Center, up his sleeve on Wednesday and got a shot, one of the first Japanese to do so.

“It didn’t hurt at all and I’m very relieved,” he told reporters while being monitored for allergic reactions. “We now have better protection and I hope we are more comfortable when we offer medical treatment.”

About 40,000 doctors and nurses, who are believed to be susceptible to the virus because they treat COVID-19 patients, are slated to be vaccinated in the first group with shots developed by Pfizer and its Germany-based partner BioNTech – after the vaccine was released on Sunday was approved by the Japanese regulator. Two doses are required, although some protection begins after the first shot.

Japan’s late approval of the vaccine means it is lagging behind many other countries. Britain started vaccinating on December 8 and given at least one shot to more than 15 million people, while the United States started its campaign on December 14 and around 40 million people received shots. Vaccines were introduced in many countries in the European Union at the end of December and campaigns there were criticized for being slower.

Japanese Vaccine Minister Taro Kono defended the delay as necessary to build confidence in a country where suspicion about vaccines is decades old. Many people have a vague discomfort about vaccines, also because their side effects have often been played out by the media here.

“I think it is more important for the Japanese government to show the Japanese people that we have done everything we can to prove the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety and to encourage the Japanese people to take the vaccine,” Kono said. “Ultimately, we may have started more slowly, but we believe it will be more effective.

Half of the recipients of the first recordings will keep a daily record of their condition for seven weeks. This data will be used in a health study to inform people who are concerned about the side effects. Studies on tens of thousands of people of the Pfizer vaccine – and others currently being given in other countries – have not found any serious side effects.

“We want to make efforts so that people can be vaccinated with peace of mind,” cabinet chief Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

The development of a Japanese COVID-19 vaccine is still in its infancy so the country, like many others, has to rely on imported vaccines, raising concerns about supply elsewhere as manufacturers struggle to keep up with demand . Suga on Wednesday recognized the importance of strengthening vaccine development and production as “critical crisis management” and pledged to provide more support.

The supply will help determine the progress of the vaccination campaign in Japan, Kono said.

The first batch of Pfizer vaccines, which arrived on Friday, is enough to cover the first group of medical professionals. A second batch is due to be delivered next week.

To get the most out of each vial, Japanese officials are also looking to special syringes that can take six doses per vial instead of five using standard Japanese syringes.

After their deployment at the front, a further 3.7 million health workers will be vaccinated from March, followed by around 36 million people aged 65 and over from April. People with underlying health problems, as well as caregivers in nursing homes and other facilities, will be next in line before it comes to the general population.

Some critics have noted that the vaccination campaign, which requires medical personnel to be carried out, adds to their burden, as Japanese hospitals are already burdened with the daily treatment of COVID-19 patients. There is an added concern that hospitals will not have additional capacity to cope with the large number of overseas visitors that the Olympics would bring.

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