Japan publicly insists that it will host its postponed Olympics this summer. But to achieve this, many believe that vaccinating its 127 million citizens against the coronavirus is key.
Japan hopes to start Covid-19 vaccines in late February, but uncertainty grows that a nation ranked among the lowest in the world in confidence in vaccines could carry out the massive $ 14 billion project in time for the July games, which casts doubt on whether Tokyo Olympics can happen.
Japan has secured vaccines for all its citizens, and more, after closing deals with three foreign pharmaceutical manufacturers: Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca and Moderna Inc. Their swift action was seen as proof of their determination to host the games after a year. postponement due to pandemic.
The country needs foreign-made vaccines because local development is only in its early stages.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in a speech this week, said that vaccines are “the deciding factor” in the fight against the pandemic and vowed to begin vaccinations in late February, when the Health Ministry approval of the vaccine is expected. Pfizer, the first applicant. .
Suga promised to provide “accurate information based on scientific findings, including side effects and efficacy,” an attempt to address the concerns of vaccine skeptics.
Under the current plan, vaccines will start with 10,000 front-line medical workers. Then, about 3 million other medical workers will be added ahead of high-risk groups, such as the elderly, people with underlying health problems and caregivers.
The rest of the population is expected to have access around May or later, although officials refuse to give an exact schedule.
Japan is under a partial state of emergency and fighting an increase in infections. There have been about 351,000 cases, with 4,800 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.
Many people are skeptical of the vaccination effort, in part because the side effects of vaccines have often been played out here. A recent poll on TBS television found that only 48% of those surveyed said they wanted a Covid-19 vaccine.
In a Lancet study of 149 countries published in September, Japan ranked among the lowest in confidence in vaccines, with less than 25% of people agreeing on the safety, importance and effectiveness of vaccines.
While vaccines are seen as key to making the games successful, Prime Minister Suga said they will not be necessary.
“We will prepare for a safe and secure Olympics without making vaccination a precondition,” Suga said Thursday, responding to a call from opposition lawmakers to postpone or cancel the games to focus on virus measures.
Uncertainty about the safety and efficacy of vaccines makes it difficult to predict when Japan will be able to gain immunity to the coronavirus broad enough to control the pandemic.