| 24 May 2024, Friday |

Unused COVID-19 shots pile up in Japan amid slow rollout

Unused coronavirus vaccines in Japan are slated to reach tens of millions of jabs, as the country braces for approving 2 more dose in the coming weeks and the pace of its vaccination campaign remains slow due to logistical and manpower bottlenecks.

The country imported 28 million jabs of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine through late April, but has so far used only 15% of the stockpile, with the remaining 24 million shots sitting in freezers.

National broadcaster NHK reported late on Thursday that Japan’s vaccine supply is set to rise sharply as regulators are preparing to decide on May 20 on approval of the jabs developed by Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca Plc.

The first batch of the Moderna vaccine had already arrived and around 30 million jabs of the AstraZeneca dose are being prepared by its local domestic partners.

Pfizer shipments are also set to accelerate to over 35 million shots this month and next.

But against all this supply — Japan has secured the largest amount of coronavirus vaccines in Asia, as it braces for the Olympics in the summer– just over 4 million doses have administered to the elderly and health care workers.

It has vaccinated only 2.2% of its population thus far, the slowest among wealthy countries, and the cabinet has an ambitious target of inoculating its 36 million elderly people by July.

To achieve that objective, the country would need to administer nearly 800,000 doses daily, according to a group of business leaders calling on the government to accelerate the campaign, more than double the pace of the best days so far.

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccines, noted that there were snags in vaccination reservation system, adding that demand in big cities had outstripped capacity.

Kono told reporters on Friday that “local government employees are really working hard, as are the call center staff so I ask that people refrain from issuing complaints as much as possible.”

  • Reuters