Japan overtakes Korea in Covid-19 vaccination rate for 1st time

22-Jul-2021 Intellasia | Koreabiomed | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Once ridiculed by its citizens as a “vaccination laggard,” Japan has boosted the number of its injections to one million a day, thanks to the stable supply of Pfiser vaccines and securing sufficient immunisation workers.

However, it is unsure how long the country will keep the high inoculation rate.

According to Our World in Data, an international statistical website for Covid-19, Japan completed providing the first jabs of the Covid-19 vaccine to 30.8 percent of its population. The figure is 0.4 percentage points higher than Korea, which recorded 30.4 percent on the same day.

This was also the first time that Korea has fallen behind Japan in providing the first jabs of the Covid-19 vaccine to its people since the start of its inoculation programme.

According to industry experts, such a reversal was due mainly to failure in ensuring a smooth supply of vaccines in Korea. In contrast, due to a stable increase in the supply of Pfiser’s vaccine supply since May, Japan has continuously raised its vaccination rate.

When comparing the graph of the actual vaccination rate of the two countries, Japan is on a steady rise in contrast to Korea, which experienced two stagnant periods.

In May, when Korea underwent a plateau due to the exhaustion of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the country would inoculate one million vaccines a day and started a large-scale project to achieve the goal.

Based on its stable supply of Pfiser’s vaccine, the number of daily vaccinations in Japan soon exceeded 500,000. As a result, the gap in vaccination rates on May 26 also narrowed by 0.3 percentage points from 7.9 to 7.6 percent.

However, the gap widened again as Korea resolved the supply bottleneck from June. This was thanks largely to the start of supplying the Moderna and Janssen vaccines in addition to the AstraZeneca and Pfiser vaccines.

The Korean government also managed to inoculate 13 million citizens in the first half at an earlier date. On June 19, the vaccination rates in the two countries increased by 10 percentage points from 19.9 to 29.3 percent.

Less than a month later, however, Japan recorded a primary vaccination rate of 30.8 percent and started to outpace Korea on July 10, standing at 0.4 percentage point higher than Korea’s 30.4 percent recorded on the same day.

Since then, Japan has maintained its lead with the rate of primary vaccination, inoculating 33.7 percent of its citizens compared to Korea’s 31.5 percent as of last Sunday.

Japan has also surpassed Korea’s rate of completion of vaccination, including the second jab, since last Sunday, with Japan completing vaccination in 21.7 percent of its citizens compared to Korea’s 12.8 percent.

While the two countries have maintained similar rates since the end of March, they have significantly widened since June 18.

Japan’s rapid rise in vaccination rates became possible thanks to the smooth supply of vaccines. Japan, which had a limited supply of 600,000 to 1.4 million doses of Pfiser’s per week until April, sharply increased its import since May. In June, the Japanese government distributed 18.7 million doses of Pfiser vaccine to local governments in a mere two-week period.

After securing a sufficient amount of vaccine, the Japanese government expanded the range of medical workers to diagnose the Covid-19 virus and inoculate the vaccine. The country has also started providing incentives as the number of vaccinations increased to encourage medical staff participation.

According to the incentive system announced by the Japanese government on May 25, the basic vaccination subsidy is 2,070 yen (21,760 won) per dose. However, the government said it would provide 4,000 yen (42,060 won) and 5,070 yen (53,313 won) in subsidies for medical institutions that vaccinate more than 100 and 150 people a week.

“After the announcement of the vaccination incentive payment, the number of medical institutions participating in vaccination increased from about 20,000 to 55,000,” said Kobayashi Fumiaki, a senior Cabinet official for the vaccination campaign. “Even if these institutions consistently inoculate 20 people a day, Japan will be able to inoculate 1 million citizens per day.”

However, it is unclear whether Japan will maintain its current pace until the end. The government promised to keep 1 million doses, but the trend of vaccination has fallen compared to last month as the supply of vaccines is not as smooth as before.

The Japanese government has decided to distribute 12 million doses of Pfiser vaccine once every two weeks from July to August. This is a decrease of about 30 percent compared to the previous month. Japan has only secured 13.7 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine from its originally scheduled 40 million dose supply by the end of June.

As such, local governments have voice concerns about a possible recurrence of a vaccine shortage crisis in March and April, while some local governments have already temporarily suspended vaccination.

There was even a dispute between the central government saying that it had sent enough vaccines and the local governments saying they did not receive enough.

Ultimately, Japan’s minister of State for Administrative Reform Taro Kono appeared on NHK and apologised that the supply could not keep up with the demand due to an increase in inoculation rate last Sunday.

“The government will introduce the 220 million doses necessary to complete national vaccination by the end of September,” Kono said.



Category: Korea

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