Published: 2021-04-28 18:56
Last Updated: 2021-05-15 16:08
Japan announced it had only used a fifth of their 14 million coronavirus vaccine doses it imported so far in a 'sluggish' vaccination campaign, according to Japanese government data Wednesday, due to logistical setbacks such as medical staff shortages.
Japan, with a population of roughly 126.3 million, have secured the largest amount of jabs in Asia, gearing up for the Olympics in a few months. However, the country has only vaccinated 1.6 percent of their citizens and residents, the slowest among rich countries.
By the end of this month, Japan will have imported 17 million doses of Pfizer-BionTech's vaccine, according to government data, but, as of Wednesday, they have only administered 3.2 million of those jabs, mostly to those working in the health sector.
In contrast, the neighboring South Korea, which began its vaccination campaign after Japan, has vaccinated around 4.7 percent of its population, with the 3.87 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines it has received so far.
According to Al Arabiya, "Japan’s unused shots suggest its inoculation push is failing to gain steam, even as inbound vaccine shipments triple over the next two months."
Japan began vaccinations two months ago, later than many developed countries, dependending on small initial supplies of the Pfizer jab flown in from Europe.
The Japanese Vaccine Minister, Taro Kono, said that municipalities requested a slower rollout to give them time to set up centers for vaccination and to notify residents.
However, as imports increased, other setbacks and hold-ups began coming forward, the foremost being manpower, as Japanese regulators stipulated that only doctors and nurses can administer jabs. Last week, the Ministry of Health announced that dentists may also administer vaccines.
Notably, Pfizer vaccine imports on a monthly basis from Europe are expected to more than triple, resulting in around 35 million doses coming into the country in both May and June alone.
Moreover, Japanese regulators began to review additional vaccine candidates such as Moderna and AstraZeneca, meaning Japan could witness further influxes of coronavirus vaccines.
The Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, earlier this week, ordered the Ministry of Defense to set up mass vaccination sites in Tokyo by May 24; signs that the government is feeling the heat to speed up inoculations.
However, the push may have come too late as the government declared a third state of emergency Sunday, only three months before the Tokyo Olympics.
Despite Japan's expectations to have enough vaccines to vaccinate a sizeable amount of the elderly population by June, no inoculation timetable has been set for the general population.
Some experts predicted it could take until winter, or even longer.