Tamio Hayashi, 77, believed he would ever be able to traverse the online platforms set up across most of Japan to register for COVID-19 immunizations.
He despised the thought of using the “difficult” technologies that had broken down and perplexed other elderly citizens, stymieing Japan’s vaccination campaign.
Fortunately, local officials in his little northeastern town guided him through the red tape and he received his vaccinations – a rare occurrence in Japan, where authorities are rushing to immunize the fragile senior population in time for the Summer Olympics, which begin in only six weeks.
Soma’s agile, in-house strategy avoids the reservation systems and dispersed efforts that are popular in Japan. The city has vaccinated 84 percent of its older residents, compared to approximately 28 percent nationally, and is now targeting younger generations, with the goal of reaching people as young as 16 by the end of July, just as the Olympics begin.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga wants all people in Japan to be fully vaccinated by July and the elderly by November. But that will necessitate increasing daily doses to a million from the current top of roughly 700,000.
“I’m not sure you could claim we couldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for the earthquake,” Abe remarked. “However, this immunization campaign coincides with the municipal government’s experience and the people joining together to cope with it for the past ten years.”
Japan has escaped the massive COVID-19 case loads and death tolls observed in many other countries, although its vaccine deployment began later than others, in mid-February, and was initially hampered by a lack of imported vaccine supplies.
The elderly were prioritized for vaccinations, but distribution was inconsistent, and reservation mechanisms broke down or confused them.