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Unused covid-19 shots piling up in Japan amid slow rollout

Unused covid-19 shots piling up in Japan amid slow rollout

Japan’s mass inoculation campaign remains slow due to manpower and logistical bottlenecks. At the same time, unused covid-19 shots are set to reach tens of millions of doses.

Amid the pandemic and preparations for the upcoming Olympics, Japan imported 28 million doses of Pfizer Inc’s covid-19 vaccine through late April. Unfortunately, the nation has so far used only 15 per cent of the stockpile, with the unused 24 million doses sitting in freezers.

Japan’s vaccine supply is set to increase sharply as regulators are preparing to decide on May 20 on approval of the shots developed by Moderna and AstraZeneca, NHK has learned. Against all supply from Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, Japan has secured the largest amount of covid-19 vaccines in the Asian region.

Japan inoculation programme rolls out slowly

Taking into account that the country is hosting Summer Olympics in a couple of months, Japan has inoculated only 2.2 per cent of its population so far. Meantime, the PM Suga government has an ambitious target of inoculating its 36 million elderly people by July.

To achieve that goal, Japan would need to administer about 800,000 shots per day, according to a group of business leaders urging the government to speed up the campaign, more than double the pace of the best days so far.

Mr Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccines, said that there were snags in inoculation reservation system and that demand in large cities had outstripped capacity.

“Local government employees are really working hard, as are the call centre staff so I ask that people refrain from issuing complaints as much as possible,” Mr Kono said on Friday, adding that the government tasked the Defence Ministry to set up a mass inoculation site in Tokyo and Osaka by May 24.