Hasta La Vista, COVID-19?


The need of the hour is a vaccine against COVID-19 and the million-dollar question is, “When will it arrive in Japan?” According to the Mainichi News, over 3000 people are getting infected every day as the busy holiday season has resulted in a third wave of infections that has swept across the country. 

On December 2, 2020, the National Diet passed a landmark bill that will offer the vaccine for free to all residents. It is unclear whether foreign residents are eligible for the free coronavirus vaccination. According to The Japan Times, the Health Ministry plans to roll out the vaccines by early February and it expects to have the entire population vaccinated by the July Olympics. The Japan Times reported that the Japanese Ministry is currently conducting clinical trials on pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Nikkei Asia, healthcare workers will receive the first shots in February followed by the older residents in late March. The general public can expect to receive their doses as early as May. Since over 20% of Japan’s population (over 36 million residents) consists of people over the age of 65, the government considers it to be of utmost importance to get senior citizens immunized as soon as possible, according to Nikkei Asia

One of the reasons why the vaccine is taking so long to arrive in Japan is because of the bitter history the public holds with widespread vaccination. According to The Japan Times, Japan has one of the lowest rates of vaccine confidence in the world. It found that fewer than 30% of people strongly agreed that vaccines were safe, important, and effective, compared with at least 50% of Americans.

The other reason is the lack of pre-existing facilities in hospitals to store the vaccine. The vaccine has to be secured in sophisticated refrigeration units that have to be built specifically for this purpose. The Japan Times says that the Ministry plans to secure 10,500 freezers capable of storing the vaccines, allowing them to be distributed across the country.

With the Olympics coming up, the government’s top priority will be to reduce the number of cases all over Japan. Until the vaccine arrives, people must maintain social distancing and refrain from going outside as much as possible to help the nation successfully bend the curve and recover from this pandemic.