Japan searches for 11,000 physicians to administer vaccinations

Nikkei -- Feb 13
Japanese localities have begun a scramble to secure medical personal to carry out a mass vaccination campaign against the coronavirus slated to start next week, with estimates predicting that 11,000 physicians are needed per day nationwide.

The health ministry is expected to approve Pfizer's vaccine on Sunday, which will pave the way for the inoculations to start as soon as Wednesday. Between 10,000 to 20,000 health care professionals will be given priority.

The vaccinations will be expanded in April to those aged 65 and older. Pfizer's vaccines are given in two doses three weeks apart, and the two-step vaccination of the elderly is due to be completed in a span of 12 weeks.

Those aged 65 and older number 35.3 million, according to resident registry data as of Jan. 1. If vaccinations take place five days a week, that would equate to more than 1.56 million shots a day.

Under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's model, two doctors and five nurses would vaccinate 280 people. Using simple math, that would mean the inoculation program will require roughly 11,000 physicians per day, who will be teamed with 28,000 nurses and nurse's assistants.

Since Japan has over 300,000 doctors, 11,000 seems like a low bar to clear at first glance. But the central government is slow in providing vaccination schedules to local authorities, which has caused delays in preparations at the local level.

Local governments have started putting out calls for doctors to take part in the vaccination programs through medical associations. Doctors and nurses who participate would need to take a leave of absent from their regular workplaces.

Since local governments do not have the authority to formally request doctors to cooperate, officials have no choice but to rely on the discretion of medical societies and the physicians themselves.

- Nikkei