The Saturday editions of all national dailies highlighted Administrative Reform Minister Kono’s statement on Friday “correcting” the remarks made a day earlier by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Sakai that the GOJ is “likely to secure by the first half of this year enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate everyone in Japan.” Kono said the senior Kantei official’s comment was based on “outdated information,” adding that the GOJ “still does not have a concrete delivery schedule.” However, Sakai later dismissed Kono’s correction saying that there is no “discrepancy” between what he said and the GOJ’s official position. The two politicians reportedly confirmed Friday evening through a teleconference that the GOJ will “strive” to secure sufficient doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of June.
In a related story, Nikkei wrote that although vaccination has already begun overseas, Japan has not yet received even a single dose. The paper partially attributed the delay in delivery to Pfizer having chosen last April to omit Japan and other Asian nations from an initial list of countries where clinical trials would be conducted perhaps on the grounds that there were not enough COVID-19 patients in the region. Consequently, the results of a clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine in Japan that started in October have yet to be made available for review by the Health Ministry and emergency use authorization is still at least several weeks away. The paper also noted that the GOJ signed a formal agreement with the U.S. pharmaceutical company on vaccine delivery only recently. As the approval processes for the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are also delayed, the paper wrote that municipal governments, which are responsible for administering vaccines to citizens, complain that despite the GOJ’s calls for speedy preparations, they are not able to draft concrete inoculation plans without a vaccine delivery schedule.
Meanwhile, Yomiuri wrote on Sunday that the Health Ministry plans to ask prefectural governments to designate at least one hospital for treating patients who experience allergic reactions or side effects from coronavirus vaccines in a bid to alleviate anxiety about vaccination and encourage more people to get inoculated. Nikkei reported on Sunday that the GOJ plans to utilize the “My Number” identification system in order to learn the status of the vaccination programs across the country, including information on those who receive the vaccine. Today’s Sankei wrote that while the Defense Ministry is allegedly keen to mobilize SDF personnel and equipment, such as aircraft and trucks, to help transport and administer vaccines across Japan, some LDP officials are worried about SDF resources possibly being “readily” diverted for purposes other than national defense.