The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that the GOJ has revised its estimate of the number of doctors and nurses who need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying that over 5 million medical practitioners are now expected to be inoculated, about 1 million more than initially projected. While the ministry plans to distribute some 2.34 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine nationwide in March, the amount will cover only 1.17 million, or just over 20% of all healthcare workers. The GOJ is reportedly running into difficulty securing enough vaccines to meet domestic demand, with a source close to Prime Minister Suga saying that there is not much Japan can do about it on account of the “vaccine war.”
In a related development, all Monday papers reported on remarks made on a Sunday talk show by Administrative Reform Minister Kono, who suggested that the planned immunization of people aged 65 or older may not start on April 1 as previously planned due to a lack of vaccine supplies and an increase in the number of healthcare professionals who need to be inoculated. As Pfizer will not be able to ramp up vaccine production drastically until early May, the politician also indicated that vaccine supplies will probably be “extremely limited” for a while. As a result, vaccination of the general public may not begin until early summer or later, especially in metropolitan areas, Kono said. He added that a new timeline for the immunization program that reflects more accurate vaccine delivery plans will be unveiled later this week.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s Nikkei wrote that multiple Japanese pharmaceutical companies, including Takeda and Daiichi Sankyo, are moving rapidly to produce and roll out vaccines of their own so that domestic vaccination programs can be conducted periodically without worrying about supplies from abroad. The daily added, however, that Japanese drug makers are lagging behind their foreign rivals in gaining expertise in vaccine development.