Japan overtakes U.S. in first vaccinations despite starting months later

Japan Times -- Sep 15
Japan has given first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to 63.6% of its population, surpassing the U.S. in the proportion of those who have had at least one shot of the vaccine despite starting months behind.

The nation’s progress now puts the U.S. last among Group of Seven nations when it comes to the proportion of the population with at least one dose, after vaccine hesitancy squandered the country’s head start. About 63.1% of the U.S. has had at least their first shot, and 53.8% are fully vaccinated.

Japan has administered a total of 145.8 million shots, and over 51% of its population is fully vaccinated, according to government figures released Tuesday.

The vaccination rollout in Japan started off slow and late compared to other developed nations, but has progressed quickly since early summer. Japan hit a million shots administered per day in mid-June, and has stuck around that pace since then while battling a wave of infections driven by the predominance of the delta variant. The U.S., meanwhile, got a head start but hasn’t been able to maintain pace.

Japan’s vaccinated population is concentrated among its elderly, who were initially prioritized. Near 90% of those 65 or older have had both jabs. The country is still rushing to inoculate younger people, who have been most affected in the most recent and worst-yet wave of coronavirus infections.