Japan's unused 14 mil doses of COVID-19 vaccines point to logistical hurdles

Japan Today -- Apr 30
Japan has only used about a fifth of the COVID-19 vaccine doses it has imported so far, government data shows, underscoring logistical hurdles such as a shortage of medical staff, as it grapples with a sluggish inoculation campaign.

Japan has secured the largest amount of COVID-19 vaccines in Asia, as it gears up for the Olympics in the summer. But it has inoculated only 1.6% of its population so far, the slowest among wealthy countries.

By the end of April, Japan will have imported enough vials of Pfizer Inc's vaccine for almost 17 million doses, according to a schedule from the Cabinet Office. But as of Wednesday just over 3.2 million shots had been given out, mostly to healthcare workers.

By comparison, South Korea, which began its inoculation campaign after Japan, has administered two thirds of 3.87 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines it had received so far, inoculating 4.7% of its population.

Japan's unused shots suggest its inoculation push is failing to gain steam, even as inbound vaccine shipments triple over the next two months.

BOTTLENECKS

The country began its vaccination push in February, later than most major economies, and was dependent on scarce initial supplies of the Pfizer vaccine flown in from Europe. Vaccine minister Taro Kono has said that municipalities requested a slower rollout to give them time to set up inoculation centers and notify residents.

But as imports started to ramp up, other bottlenecks have become apparent, mainly in manpower. Japanese regulations say only doctors or nurses can administer the injections. The health ministry last week decided that dentists may also deliver shots.

- Japan Today