clearn.png
Monday October 18th, 2021 3:41AM

Japan vaccination uncertainty casts doubts over Olympics

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

TOKYO (AP) — Japan is publicly adamant that it will stage its postponed Olympics this summer. But to pull it off, many believe the vaccination of its 127 million citizens for the coronavirus is key.

It's an immense undertaking in the best of circumstances and complicated now by an overly cautious decision-making process, bureaucratic roadblocks and a public that has long been deeply wary of vaccines.

Japan hopes to start COVID-19 vaccinations in late February, but uncertainty is growing that a nation ranked among the world’s lowest in vaccine confidence can pull off the massive, $14 billion project in time for the games in July, casting doubt on whether the Tokyo Olympics can happen.

Japan has secured vaccines for all its citizens, and then some, after striking deals with three foreign pharmaceutical makers — Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca and Moderna Inc. Its swift action was seen as proof of its resolve to stage the games after a one-year postponement because of the pandemic.

The country needs foreign-made vaccines because local development is only in its early stages.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in a speech this week, said vaccines are “the clincher” in the fight against the pandemic and vowed to start vaccinations as soon as late February, when health ministry approval of the Pfizer vaccine, the first applicant, is expected.

Suga pledged to provide "accurate information based on scientific findings, including side effects and efficacy,” an attempt to address the worries of vaccine skeptics.

Under the current plan, inoculations will start with 10,000 front-line medical workers. Then about 3 million other medical workers will be added ahead of high-risk groups such as the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and caregivers. The rest of the population is expected to get access around May or later, though officials refuse to give an exact timeline.

Japan is under a partial state of emergency and struggling with an upsurge of infections. There have been about 351,000 cases, with 4,800 deaths, according to the health ministry.

Many people are skeptical of the vaccination effort, partly because side effects of vaccines have often been played up here. A recent survey on TBS television found only 48% of respondents said they wanted a COVID-19 vaccination. In a Lancet study of 149 countries published in September, Japan ranked among the lowest in vaccine confidence, with less than 25% of people agreeing on vaccine safety, importance and effectiveness.

Many Japanese have a vague unease about vaccines, said Dr. Takashi Nakano, a Kawasaki Medical School professor and vaccine expert. “If something (negative) happens after inoculation, people tend to think it’s because of the vaccine, and that’s the image stuck in their mind for a long time.”

The history of vaccine mistrust in Japan dates back to 1948, when dozens of babies died after getting a faulty diphtheria vaccine. In 1989, cases of aseptic meningitis in children who received a combined vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, prompted lawsuits against the government, forcing it to scrap the mix four years later.

A 1992 court ruling held the government liable for adverse reactions linked to several vaccines, while defining suspected side effects as adverse events, but without sufficient scientific evidence, experts say. In a major change to its policy, Japan in 1994 revised its vaccination law to scrap mandatory inoculation.

While several Japanese companies and research organizations are currently developing their own coronavirus vaccines, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. will distribute the Moderna vaccine and produce the Novavax vaccine in Japan.

Masayuki Imagawa, head of Takeda's Japan vaccine business unit, said his company last year considered developing its own vaccine. But instead it decided to prioritize speed and chose to import Moderna's product and make the Novavax vaccine at Takeda's factory in Japan. He said the decision was not influenced by the Olympics.

Experts also worry about running into logistical challenges and bureaucratic roadblocks in staging a massive inoculation project that involves five government ministries along with local towns and cities. The government has budgeted more than 1.5 trillion yen ($14 billion) for the vaccine project.

Thousands of medical workers would have to be mobilized to give the shots, monitor and respond in case of any problems. Securing their help is difficult when hospitals are already burdened with treatment of COVID-19 patients, said Hitoshi Iwase, an official in Tokyo's Sumida district tasked with preparing vaccinations for 275,000 residents.

While vaccines are considered key to achieving the games, Prime Minister Suga said they won't be required.

“We will prepare for a safe and secure Olympics without making vaccination a precondition,” Suga said Thursday, responding to a call by opposition lawmakers for a further postponement or cancellation of the games to concentrate on virus measures.

Uncertainty over vaccine safety and efficacy make it difficult to predict when Japan can obtain wide enough immunity to the coronavirus to control the pandemic.

“It is inappropriate to push vaccinations to hold the Olympics,” said Dr. Tetsuo Nakayama, a professor at Kitasato Institute for Life Sciences. "Vaccines should be used to protect the people’s health, not to achieve the Olympics.”

___

Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP Health - Children's Health, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2 films offer 2 tales ahead of Wuhan lockdown anniversary
Two new films about Wuhan have been released on the eve of the anniversary of the 76-day lockdown in the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected
5:39AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Japan vaccination uncertainty casts doubts over Olympics
Japan is publicly adamant that it will stage its postponed Olympics this summer
5:33AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Biden ordering stopgap help as talks start on big aid plan
President Joe Biden plans to take executive action to provide a stopgap measure of financial relief to millions of Americans
5:16AM ( 39 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
German virus death toll tops 50,000 even as infections sink
The death toll from the coronavirus in Germany has passed 50,000, a number that has risen swiftly over recent weeks even as infection figures are finally declining
4:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
Sri Lanka approves vaccine amid warnings of virus spread
Sri Lanka has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to be used against COVID-19 amid warnings from doctors that frontline health workers should be quickly vaccinated to stop the system from collapsing
3:07AM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Germany's virus death toll hits over 50,000
More than 50,000 people have died after contracting the coronavirus in Germany, a number that has risen swiftly over recent weeks even as infection figures are finally beginning to fall
2:48AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Health
The Latest: Wisconsin vaccine plan excludes grocery workers
Wisconsin’s plan for the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations covers essential workers, including teachers, child care providers, law enforcement officers and hospital staff who aren’t on the front lines
10:52AM ( 2 days ago )
Watchdog: DOJ bungled 'zero tolerance' immigration policy
Justice Department leaders under President Donald Trump knew their 2018 “zero tolerance” border policy would result in family separations but pressed on with prosecutions
3:54PM ( 1 week ago )
Gov't watchdog: DOJ failed 'zero tolerance' management
Justice Department leaders under President Donald Trump knew their 2018 “zero tolerance” border policy would result in family separations but pressed on with prosecutions
12:57PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Health - Children's Health
In Somalia, mothers fear sons were sent to Ethiopia conflict
Pressure is growing on Somalia’s government amid allegations that Somali soldiers have been sent to fight in neighboring Ethiopia’s deadly Tigray conflict
4:02AM ( 1 hour ago )
First-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons enters into force
The first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons has entered into force and is being hailed as a historic step to rid the world of its deadliest weapons
2:40AM ( 3 hours ago )
Amid cancellation talk, Tokyo Olympics `focused on hosting'
IOC President Thomas Bach and local organizers are pushing back against reports that the postponed Tokyo Olympics will be canceled
2:31AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP World News
Asian stocks sink after China coronavirus resurgence
Asian stock markets have retreated after a resurgence of coronavirus infections in China and a rise in cases in Southeast Asia
1:06AM ( 4 hours ago )
Coronavirus guidelines now the rule at White House
The clearest sign that there’s a new boss at the White House is the deference being paid to coronavirus public health guidelines
12:22AM ( 5 hours ago )
ExxonMobil becomes latest sponsor to sever Iditarod ties
The Iditarod, the world’s most famous sled dog race, has lost another major sponsor as it prepares for a scaled back version of this year’s race because of the pandemic
10:09PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Pennsylvania's vaccine demand far exceeds supply
 Some of Pennsylvania’s largest health systems are warning people there isn’t enough coronavirus vaccine in the state to meet surging demand
6:31PM ( 11 hours ago )
The Latest: Fauci to resume virus updates in White House
Dr. Anthony Fauci is back in the White House briefing room
4:51PM ( 13 hours ago )
The Latest: Biden boosts US response to COVID-19 pandemic
President Joe Biden is signing 10 executive orders aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic, including one broadening the use of the Defense Production Act to expand vaccine production
3:57PM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
The Latest: US Chamber of Commerce likes Biden's virus plan
The largest business lobbying group in the U.S. is supporting President Joe Biden’s early moves to confront the coronavirus
1:52PM ( 16 hours ago )
The Latest: South Africa cabinet minister dies from virus
South Africa’s president says Jackson Mthembu has died from the coronavirus, becoming the first cabinet minister to succumb to the disease
1:17PM ( 16 hours ago )
The Latest: Study: Antibody drug may help prevent virus
Drugmaker Eli Lilly says its COVID-19 antibody drug helped prevent illness among residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care locations
10:55AM ( 19 hours ago )
AP Business - Health Care
2 films offer 2 tales ahead of Wuhan lockdown anniversary
Two new films about Wuhan have been released on the eve of the anniversary of the 76-day lockdown in the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected
5:39AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Biden ordering stopgap help as talks start on big aid plan
President Joe Biden plans to take executive action to provide a stopgap measure of financial relief to millions of Americans
5:16AM ( 39 minutes ago )
Russia welcomes US proposal to extend nuclear treaty
The Kremlin has welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposal to extend the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries, which is set to expire in less than two weeks
4:57AM ( 58 minutes ago )
The Latest: Portugal halts flights to UK over virus variant
Portugal is stopping flights to and from the United Kingdom, blaming a COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. for a devastating surge in new Portuguese cases
4:43AM ( 1 hour ago )
Global stocks sink after China coronavirus resurgence
Global stock markets have retreated after a resurgence of coronavirus infections in China and a rise in cases in Southeast Asia
4:32AM ( 1 hour ago )