Japan is about to succeed in COVID-19 herd immunity in October, months after the Olympics, Reuters researchers
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo
By Rocky Swift
(Reuters) – Japan is likely to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19 through mass vaccination just a few months after the scheduled Tokyo Olympics, despite having locked up the largest amount of vaccines in Asia, according to a London-based forecaster.
That would be a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has pledged to have enough shots for the population by mid-2021 as he lags most major economies in launching COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Japan seems to be pretty late in the game,” Rasmus Bech Hansen, founder of British research firm Airfinity, told Reuters. “They rely on importing a lot (vaccines) from the US. And right now it doesn’t seem very likely that they will get very large quantities of vaccines, for example Pfizer (NYSE 🙂 vaccine. “
Hansen said Japan won’t reach a 75% vaccination rate until around October, about two months after the Summer Games ends, a measure of herd immunity.
Japan has agreed to purchase 314 million cans from Pfizer. Modern (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc and AstraZeneca (NASDAQ 🙂 Plc, and that would be more than enough for the 126 million inhabitants.
But problems with the introduction of vaccines elsewhere cast doubts that Japan will receive these supplies on time.
Taro Kono, Japan’s vaccination program chief, said last week that the first shots would begin in February, starting with 10,000 medics, but he went back to aiming to ensure enough vaccine supplies by June.
Japan is particularly vulnerable as its original vaccination schedule is dependent on Pfizer doses that US authorities could withdraw to combat the pandemic there.
“There just aren’t enough vaccines for all of the countries that Pfizer has agreements with,” said Hansen.
“America needs 100 million more Pfizer vaccines to be on the safe side to meet its goals, and a lot of that 100 million would come from the Japanese pile.”
The Japanese Ministry of Health did not immediately respond with a comment on Airfinity’s projections. Pfizer said in a statement it was working to increase capacity to meet global demand to deliver approximately 2 billion vaccine doses in 2021.
Pfizer is expanding its facility in Puurs, Belgium, which will temporarily affect some shipments through mid-February. In the meantime, the company is “working closely with all governments in the allocation of cans”.
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