Japan and Korea have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19

The slow vaccination rate allows East Asian countries to learn from other regions’ experiences, but there is also a risk that the virus variant spreads faster.

Major cities in Japan are in a state of emergency as the number of nCoV infections and deaths increases. South Korea still maintains a ban on gathering of 5 or more people to control the spread of the virus. Hong Kong imposed a strict blockade on some residential areas to control the disease. However, unlike other Western countries, there has been no place where vaccination has been done, which is considered a light of hope to help humanity escape from the pandemic.

As the US, most of Europe and the populous Asian regions like China and India have started to vaccinate people, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are taking much slower steps. Japan does not intend to vaccinate frontline medical staff until the end of February. South Korea similarly. It was not until May that the country began to deploy vaccines to people over 65 years old. Hong Kong will vaccinate the high-risk group of Covid-19 in mid-February.

To some extent, East Asia’s three largest economies have had more time. Although the number of infections increased rapidly, they have not experienced a strong outbreak with high devastation like the US or the UK. Leaders of the three regions said they would approve the vaccine after reviewing the standards and preparing enough facilities and logistics.

Dr Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, said: “Japan, Korea and Hong Kong are in a jealous position. allowing them to reduce the burden of the disease. They don’t have to deal with ‘vaccination or death.’ The countries that must accelerate vaccines are the ones that suffer the most from the epidemic. “

People wait in line for nCoV testing in Seoul, December 2020. Image: Reuters

Some governments have been slow to see nCoV variants popping up globally, spreading fast, and possibly more dangerous. This partly hinders efforts to protect and restore a normal life for a community that has gradually been tired. But that delay also presents an opportunity. The “latecomers” can spend some time learning from problems faced by the US and Europe, such as supply constraints, cold storage challenges and first-person disputes.

By taking more cautious steps, East Asian governments have also allayed public concerns about rapid vaccine development. Polls in Japan and South Korea show that many people do not want to be vaccinated right away.

“The bottleneck is on the demand side, not supply,” said Dr. Udayakumar. “Can we convince people to accept the vaccine, will we get vaccinated fast enough to achieve a level of community immunity? ? “.

Supply problems can also limit the rate of vaccinations. When Hong Kong approved Pfizer’s injections in January, neither Japan nor South Korea approved any of the products. Both countries have contracts with many manufacturers to keep vaccines in advance for all people. The pharmaceutical company is also trying to get as many orders as possible.

Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University, said: “If there is a vaccine, Korea will initiate vaccination faster than any other country, because this is South Korea’s strength. is not yet sure the shipments will arrive on time “.

In theory, the vaccine in Japan is a more pressing issue. The government has vowed to host the Olympic Games, although more and more people question the feasibility of the event. The Olympics were originally scheduled for 2020 in Tokyo, but postponed until this summer, scheduled to open on July 23.

In January, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, encouraged athletes, organizers, and attendees to “vaccinate in advance at home, according to national vaccination guidelines.” before coming to Japan “. But Japanese officials say this is not necessary. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said: “By taking the appropriate measures to fight the epidemic, we are preparing a perfect tournament without vaccines.”

As pressure increased, the government began to lower expectations for rapid vaccine delivery. Last week, Taro Kono, Minister of Administrative Reform, said Japan could not vaccinate people over 65 before April. It is likely that the country will not have community immunity until a few months after the Olympics.

Immunization rehearsal in Kawasaki, Japan, January 27.  Photo: AFP

Immunization rehearsal in Kawasaki, Japan, January 27. Image: AFP

Japanese people also have the highest skepticism of a vaccine in the world. The rampant misinformation has been hampering previous immunization campaigns. After the cervical cancer vaccine was released in 2010, the media simultaneously reported that one person had a serious side effect. Experts later said the symptoms were not related to the dose. However, that vague memory still haunts the community today.

Kazuo Inoue, 68, who lives in Tokyo, said: “In general, any new vaccine or drug has side effects. We’ve seen a few incidents before. I forgot the name of the vaccine, But it’s for women, the HPV vaccine. It’s a new vaccine and has a lot of side effects for users. “

Erika Yamao, 33, a hairstylist and a mother of three in Tokyo, said she believes in noon shows, where the famous MC warns of vaccine side effects. Yamao said she did not want to be vaccinated even after the vaccine was approved.

“I don’t know how much it will protect me, but obviously there are risks involved,” she said.

For that reason, government advisers have shown caution in the public health campaign to promote vaccines. Takashi Nakano, professor of Kawasaki Medical School, an expert at the Ministry of Health, said: “In my opinion, asking people to be vaccinated will create a mixed reaction. People might think ‘Why do they suggest we use Vaccines are not safe just because the government pushes them? ”.

For some, the decision to get the vaccine depends on whether it allows them to do what they want. Erika Yamao said she would get vaccinated if it helped her visit her parents in Osaka.

“In case I can’t take the bullet train without a vaccination, I will consider it. That is the last resort,” she said.

Thuc Linh (According to the NY Times)


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