The start of COVID-19 vaccinations will be a major step toward the containment of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The government should closely work with local governments to prevent confusion.
An expert subcommittee of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has decided that the COVID-19 vaccine produced by leading U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. should be approved. The ministry is expected to formally approve the vaccine soon.
The vaccine was developed at an unprecedented speed, using the latest genetic technology. Although some people have expressed concern regarding this, the vaccine has undergone clinical testing and other necessary procedures overseas and is said to be highly effective. There have not been many reports of serious cases of side effects.
Large-scale vaccinations have begun in most advanced countries. In Japan, a special measure that greatly omits procedures has been implemented in the approval process. Taking into consideration the state of emergency extension, it is appropriate that the government has placed importance on speed to approve the vaccine.
Medical workers at risk of infection will be prioritized for vaccinations, the first of which will be given to 10,000 to 20,000 people. Full-scale vaccinations for the elderly are expected to start in April or later.
Although the first batch of the vaccine has arrived in Japan, confusion is spreading among local governments as the vaccination schedule and quantity of vaccine to be supplied have not been finalized. A government-led system to gather information on the progress of vaccinations and the supply of vaccines must be established as soon as possible.
All vaccines have minor side effects, such as pain in the arm. In some cases, serious symptoms appear as often as once in every 100,000 shots.
It is said that the Japanese have a strong tendency to be reluctant to be vaccinated. Given the history of harmful drug-related incidents, it is inevitable that people feel afraid of new products.
Nevertheless, the risk of infection in society as a whole can be reduced if the vaccination rate increases. Japan might be able to escape the current situation in which there has been no choice but to restrict economic activities and exercise self-restraint.
It is important to compare the advantages and disadvantages of the vaccination and calmly make judgments. The government needs to explain the effects and side effects of the vaccine in an easy-to-understand manner and resolve any questions or concerns about vaccination.
The government has decided against lifting the state of emergency for some areas. In Aichi and Gifu prefectures, the number of people infected with the virus has been decreasing, but the government concluded that the pressure over hospital bed availability has not been fully resolved. This was an inevitable decision that helps to avoid a situation in which infections rebound after the state of emergency is lifted, forcing the government to make another declaration.
A legal framework for “priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease” has been established, allowing the government to take steps similar to those implemented under a state of emergency if the medical situation becomes strained. The vaccination rollout will take time. For the time being, such measures must be utilized to prevent infections from spreading.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 13, 2021.