Japan to roll out vaccines this week | Daily News

Japan to roll out vaccines this week

As the Japanese government prepares to roll out novel coronavirus vaccines on Wednesday to fight the pandemic, skepticism in some sections of the public may hamper the effort.

Medical experts say that around 80 percent of the population must have immunity against COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, through vaccinations or previous infections to reach herd immunity and start turning the tide against the virus.

Yet in a Kyodo News survey conducted on Feb. 6-7, only 63.1 percent of people in Japan expressed willingness to get a shot while 27.4 percent said they were unwilling, with women in their 40s and 50s the most unwilling cohort.

Japan's COVID-19 cases are relatively low compared with other countries, standing at around 415,000 in total with over 6,900 deaths.

Nevertheless, it is riding a third wave of infections with an overwhelmed medical system. A second state of emergency over the virus, initially declared in early January for Tokyo and its vicinity, has been extended for another month until March 7, covering 10 prefectures including the capital. The health ministry said it will prioritize inoculations of frontline health workers starting on Wednesday, and expand the effort over several months to cover general health-care workers, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions. Members of the general public are expected to start receiving their first shots in May or later.

Japan will procure vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. of the United States, with an efficacy rate of some 95 percent, as well as from Britain's AstraZeneca Plc, whose rate averages around 70 percent.

Despite their effectiveness, public hesitancy remains. In a survey held in late January across 15 countries by marketing research firm Ipsos, Japan ranked fourth from bottom in terms of people's willingness to be inoculated at 64 percent, above South Africa, France and Russia, the most skeptical country with only 42 percent wanting to receive a jab.

But Japan fell to second bottom in the 15-country rankings when it came to enthusiasm for inoculation, with only 19 percent "strongly" agreeing to get vaccinations when they become available. Only 26 percent of those willing to be vaccinated wanted to get shots "immediately," suggesting a prevalent wait-and-see attitude. (Kyodo News)