Together with other developed countries, Japan is also moving forward with regard to vaccination. However, vaccination here in Japan, according to "Japan Today", is extremely slow. Since up to 99% of the population did not receive the vaccine in the first months, as happened in other developed countries, for example in Europe and the United States.

It is worth considering that elderly people in Japan make up about 30% of the total population. Therefore, the need for vaccination is quite high here.

Vaccination against Covid-19 in Japan

Photo: KYODO Pool

According to the analytical data collected by the University of Oxford, some developed countries are significantly ahead of Japan in terms of vaccination against COVID-19. Data compiled by the university's research team showed, for example, that more than 61 percent of Israel's population received at least one dose of the vaccine as of last Thursday. In the UK, the figure was about 47 percent. And about 15 percent in Germany.

It is believed that this slow start of vaccination in Japan is due to several factors. One reason is that the Japanese authorities approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE two months after the countries of Europe and the USA did so.

In fact, the only vaccine currently officially approved in Japan is from Pfizer Inc. That actually, I think, can also be a concomitant factor of the "slow start".

Another reason is that Japan currently relies exclusively on the European Union to supply Pfizer's vaccine. And Japan needs permission for every single shipment under the new export controls in the region.

Domestic Japanese drug manufacturers have been slow to develop their own vaccines. Anges Inc, Daiichi Sankyo Co, Shionogi & Co and KM Biologics Co have begun clinical trials, but they all still have a long way to go before they can enter the local and global markets.

Meanwhile, «Takeda Pharmaceutical Co» has an agreement to manufacture the Novavax Inc coronavirus vaccine in Japan and began clinical trials in the country in February.

Public concern about the possible side effects of coronavirus vaccines in Japan remains high. In addition, the government is imposing extremely stringent vaccine requirements, including mandatory additional clinical trials. Moreover, such tests should be carried out exclusively on Japan's own population.

But dependence on supplies from overseas heightens fears that Japan could be vulnerable to future pandemics.

Building capacity to develop and produce vaccines domestically is an important issue from a crisis management perspective.” - Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told parliament.

Some health experts have tried to make a positive turn around Japan's lag behind other countries. They said this "lag" would allow Japan to assess the side effects situation overseas and learn from others' experiences.

Others, however, warn that the fact that Japan has recorded far fewer infections and deaths from COVID-19 than many European countries and the United States may have led to a lack of urgency in the supply of vaccines.

The cumulative number of coronavirus infections in Japan on Friday exceeded 500,000.

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccinations, said the government is ready to dispense a total of 100 million doses by the end of June, enough to fully vaccinate 50 million people.

The Pfizer vaccine, the only vaccine currently approved in Japan, is a double dose of the vaccine, in which people must have a second shot as well. The second injection is carried out three weeks after the first.

UK company AstraZeneca Plc applied for approval for its COVID-19 vaccine in February. And in March, the American biotechnology company Moderna Inc pledged to provide enough COVID-19 vaccines for Japan's 126 million people in the first half of 2021.

In the meantime, municipalities have expressed concern about a number of changes to the vaccination program schedule made by the central government.