Japan’s slow vaccine rollout pushes back recovery time frame

Japan Times -- Apr 12
Japan’s vaccination drive finally kicked into gear Monday around four months after the start of inoculations in the United States and the United Kingdom, a slow rollout that has generated further criticism of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s handling of the pandemic.

The doses for people 65 and over are the first vaccinations for members of the public in Japan after priority was given to inoculating front-line medical staff first.

Japan has so far weathered the coronavirus pandemic relatively well, with infection numbers and deaths just a fraction of many Western countries. But the slow vaccination plan means struggling businesses and fearful shoppers will have to hold out for longer as the recovery of the economy is delayed by as much as two years compared with global peers.

The tardy start comes as stricter measures were reinstated today to quell an uptick in virus cases in the capital, fueling discontent with Suga in an election year, as the government, like many around the world, lurches between tightening and loosening guidelines on activity. It also adds to smoldering doubts over Tokyo’s readiness to host the Olympics in July with no timeline for when most people will be inoculated.

“More than anything we need to get on with these vaccinations quickly,” said Kazutaka Sato, the 70-year-old owner of a restaurant in Osaka, the current center of the pandemic in Japan. “Without vaccinations, it’s going to be extremely tough for businesses like ours to keep going.”

With no domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine of its own, Japan’s late rollout stems from a dependence on imported shots that were initially in limited supply. Another factor was a strict approval process that required local clinical trials for foreign vaccines. So far, Japan has only given the green light to Pfizer-BioNTech’s jabs.

- Japan Times