Few Japanese medical workers fully vaccinated as Olympics near

Few Japanese medical workers fully vaccinated as Olympics near
# 19 May 2021 09:45 (UTC +04:00)

Less than 30% of medics in Japan's major cities have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with just 65 days to go before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Wednesday, as calls grow for the Games to be cancelled, APA reports citing Reuters.

Cabinet figures released this week showed that three months into Japan's COVID-19 vaccination push, less than 40% of its medical workers were fully inoculated.

The problem is especially pronounced in Tokyo, which is due to host the Games starting on July 23, and other large population centres, where the rate of fully vaccinated medical workers was less than 30%, the Nikkei reported.

Much of the supply of vaccine was concentrated in large hospitals, and there had been problems in the reservation systems for medical staff, the newspaper said.

The slow rollout for doctors and nurses has been among complaints cited by medical groups that have come out against holding the Games as Japan battles to contain a surge in infections.

Much of Japan, including the metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka, are under states of emergency until the end of the month to try to counter a fourth wave of infections. The southern prefecture of Okinawa said on Wednesday it would request its own emergency declaration as new infections reached record highs.

The government is aiming to inoculate most of its 36 million people over the age of 65 by the end of July. To reach that target, the government hopes to deliver about 1 million shots a day, about three times faster than the current pace.

So far, just 3.7% of Japan's population of 126 million have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, the lowest rate among wealthy countries. Initially, the holdup was scant supplies of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, the only one approved by regulators so far.

But inbound shipments of the Pfizer shot have increased dramatically in May, and the government is expected to approve Moderna Inc's candidate this week for use in mass vaccination centres. The shot developed by AstraZeneca PLC is also being considered by domestic regulators.

As supply bottlenecks eased, problems with vaccine reservation systems and manpower shortages have cropped up. The government said on Wednesday it is looking into allowing pharmacists to give the injections, after it made a similar ruling on dentists last month.