Japan’s Olympic hopes rest on a successful Covid-19 vaccine drive

Officials in Japan say a successful coronavirus vaccination drive is significant to the country’s ability to host the delayed 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. Yet the country has been far slower than many of its peers to start rolling out vaccines, only approving its first one this past weekend.

Now, with just five months to travel before the games are scheduled to require place, Japan’s government is racing against the clock to urge its population to be vaccinated.

In November, the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the German biotech firm BioNTech reported the results of the phase 3 trial of their Covid-19 vaccine, which found it to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing infection. Within weeks, several countries, including the US and therefore the uk , issued emergency use authorizations for the drug.

But Japan didn’t accept the results of the Pfizer study. Instead, it asked Pfizer to try to do additional trials with Japanese participants. Japan’s request was meant to alleviate concerns that not enough Asian, and particularly Japanese, candidates had been included in Pfizer’s trial.

Finally, on Valentine Day , Japan approved Pfizer’s vaccine, two months after the US and therefore the UK began their campaigns. While some have argued that the extra wait time, which only led to testing 160 Japanese participants, wasn’t well worth the trouble, Japan’s vaccination point person Taro Kono defended the delay at a news conference on Tuesday.

“It was more important for the government to show the japanese people that everything was done” to get everyone on board with getting vaccinated, Kono said.

Kono’s comment underscores the importance of gaining charitable trust in Japan, a country ranked among rock bottom within the world for vaccine confidence.

And immediately in Japan, confidence within the vaccine is seriously needed.

Last month, Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide declared a state of emergency for 11 areas including the cities of Tokyo and Osaka because the number of cases in those places reached their highest levels of the pandemic.

At the time, Suga stated his unwavering commitment to safely holding the Olympic Games. “I am determined to hold safe and secure games by taking all possible measures against the infection,” he said.

As of February 16, Japan has recorded quite 400,000 coronavirus cases and seven ,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Tokyo, where the games are to be held, has been the epicenter of these deaths.

When the Olympics were first postponed in March 2020, then-Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said the rescheduled games would be a celebration of humankind’s victory over the coronavirus.

Suga, who took over after Abe stepped down in September, continues to echo that sentiment. “I am determined to realize a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” Suga told his country’s parliament on Friday, according to the Washington Post.

But with just over 150 days left before the Olympic Games are alleged to begin on July 23, the coronavirus still raging within the country, and therefore the government only now starting its vaccine rollout, victory seems distant.

Dr. Dhillon Randeep

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