VACCINATION PROGRAM IN JAPAN: HOW IS IT GOING?
Writer: Sita Rizky | Illustrator: Carina Audrey Budiarto | Editor: Reinardus Darren | Photographer: Sita Rizky
It has been more than a year since the first outbreak of COVID 19. In a relatively short period of time, several companies from different countries succeeded to produce vaccines for the virus. Since then many countries have started rolling out the vaccine. As of February 14th 2021 Japan has approved Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines, while Astra Zeneca and Moderna were approved in May 21st 2021. Frontline health workers are prioritised to get the vaccine first. After that, the vaccine doses are set to be given to people above 65 years old and other vulnerable groups.
Despite being one of the first countries to report a case of COVID-19, Japan’s vaccine deployment process is relatively slow compared to other developed countries. For example, the US and the UK have authorized the vaccines since December 2020. By now around half of the population in both countries have been vaccinated. On the contrary, Japan’s vaccination rate has barely reached 3-4% of the population.
Surely there are reasons behind it. Out of all Japan’s vaccine stock, most of it is Pfizer. However, standard syringes used in Japan are a little bit different from those used to deliver the Pfizer vaccine. This caused a problem that hinders vaccine delivery. It also takes more time to approve a vaccine in Japan. Even though each vaccine has been tested by the company that produced it, additional domestic trials are required before it is distributed in Japan. This is done as a preventive measure because sometimes vaccines can result in serious adverse reactions. Fortunately, while it usually takes a year for a vaccine to be approved, it took just two months for the COVID 19 vaccines to go through this process.
Despite the obstacles, the Japanese government still strives to provide the vaccine for everyone. After all, they already have enough of the vaccine, the only problem is the delivery. The government has decided that citizens can get the vaccine free of charge. Residents of foreign nationalities are also eligible, but it is still unclear whether it will be provided for free or not.
As the Tokyo Olympics draws closer, the Japanese government gears up to accelerate the vaccination process. The general public is planned to start receiving the vaccine around July. Hopefully it does not get any later than the planned timeline, because even though foreign spectators are not allowed to attend the games, the crowd of athletes, officials, journalists, and staffs, still induces risk of creating an incubator for the virus.
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