By MARI YAMAGUCI, associated Press
Tokyo (AP) – Japan’s first coronovirus shots were delivered to health workers on Wednesday, launching a vaccination campaign considered important to prevent the already-delayed Tokyo Olympics.
The progress of the campaign may be uncertain, however, in a country concerned about the potential shortage of imported vaccines and where people often hesitate to take vaccines due to concerns of side effects.
The government approved its Beloved First Approval Sunday for shots developed and supplied by Pfizer, which has since been used in many other countries since December.
In addition to the company’s first tests in six other nations, Japan fell behind after asking Pfizer to conduct clinical trials with the Japanese. But officials say it was necessary to address many Japanese people’s concerns about safety in a country known for low vaccine confidence.
The supply of imported vaccines is a major concern due to supply shortages and restrictions in Europe, where many are manufactured. The supply of imported vaccines will determine the progress of the vaccination campaign in Japan, the country’s vaccine minister Taro Kono said on Tuesday.
40,000 doctors and nurses from 100 select hospitals across the country received their first shots on Wednesday. A second shot was planned on 10 March. Half of people will participate in a 7-week health survey.
After a delay of weeks, Japan’s inoculation program is running on a tight schedule.
Vaccines arrived at Tokio Hospital late Tuesday, vaccinations for its staff began Wednesday morning.
The first batch of Pfizer vaccine, which arrived last Friday, is sufficient for 40,000 doctors and nurses from 100 selected hospitals across the country.
Vaccination of more than 3.7 million health workers will begin in March, followed by approximately 36 million people aged 65 and older starting in April. Those with underlying health issues, as well as those caring at nursing homes and other facilities, will be next, before the general population gets their turn.
Experts say it will be around June until it is the turn of the common people, and so-called “herd immunity” against the virus will be impossible to reach.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin in July.
The mistrust of vaccines in Japan is decades old. Many people have a vague disease about vaccines, partly because their side effects are often played out.
Half of the recipients of the first shots will keep daily records of their condition for seven weeks, a data used in a health study to inform people concerned about side effects.
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