Japan, eyeing Olympics, strains up half-billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Tokyo, August 28

Japan is making an aggressive transfer to seize sufficient coronavirus vaccine to inoculate its inhabitants 4 instances over, a push the federal government hopes will instil confidence that it could possibly host a delayed summer season Olympics subsequent 12 months.

Like different wealthy international locations, Japan is signing a number of offers as a result of a few of the vaccines may fail in medical trials or require a couple of dose, an method some specialists take into account prudent.

But Japan has one thing else using on a profitable mass rollout of a vaccine: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s enduring goal to carry hundreds of athletes and followers to Tokyo for the Games in 2021 after the occasion fell by this 12 months because of the pandemic.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the highest authorities spokesman, mentioned Japan was working with Olympic organisers on how one can go forward with the Games, tying the trouble to the necessity to safe a vaccine.

“The various companies will probably be able to produce a vaccine between the end of this year and next March,” Suga advised Reuters in an interview this week, including: “There are a lot of considerations but we want to hold the Olympics at all costs.”

Japan is on observe to have 521 million doses of 5 completely different vaccines in 2021, in contrast with a inhabitants of 126 million. Recent offers embody international preparations with such drugmakers as Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca PLC, in addition to native offers with the likes of Shionogi & Co.

“You have to bet evenly to avoid getting nothing,” mentioned Tomoya Saito, director at Japan’s National Institute of Public Health.

‘Hope for a miracle’

Some critics contend that Japan’s rush to safe provides is pushed largely by a political need to point out the world it’s totally dedicated to internet hosting the Games.

“The plan is, hope for a miracle and then capitalise on that miracle,” mentioned Michael Cucek, a political science professor at Temple University Japan. “But the timeframe for that is getting narrower and narrower.”

The Health Ministry and Cabinet Office officers didn’t reply to queries about whether or not Japan’s drive to safe coronavirus vaccines was related to the Olympics.

Japanese officers have mentioned placing on a “simplified” Games, initially anticipated to draw 6,00,000 guests. But the occasion would nonetheless contain some 11,000 athletes from all over the world.

Given the scale of the occasions and folks coming from everywhere in the world, holding the Olympics require “mass quantities of an effective vaccine,” mentioned Kenji Shibuya, director of the Institute of Population Health at King’s College, London.

Staging an Olympics in a pandemic shall be an enormous logistical problem, as hundreds of athletes all over the world should practice and journey to occasions and lots of extra hundreds of followers should be accommodated at a time when many international locations should still be in lockdown. Japan nonetheless has a journey ban in place protecting greater than 140 international locations.

Even with a viable vaccine, the extra problem of immunising athletes and guests earlier than or after touchdown in Japan shall be huge.

A “very, very essential factor” for the Olympic hosts can be when an efficient vaccine shall be prepared and the way it will be distributed, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike advised Reuters on Tuesday. “We will do our best to prevent coronavirus infections here in Japan and also to welcome the athletes from all over the world.” Reuters

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