By Kaite Yusuke
The Japanese government was not informed in advance of the pledge made by the UK as Group of Seven (G7) summit meeting chair to “provide 1 billion doses” of the COVID-19 vaccine to developing countries. A top Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official says that MOFA “was not informed at all” and that “there is no basis” [for the 1 billion] figure.” Japan just declared its intent to provide $800 million (about 88 billion yen) to support vaccinations in developing countries at the “vaccine summit” on June 2. The government is perplexed.
The Japanese government hosted the vaccine summit, during which it pledged an additional $800 million to COVAX, a global mechanism for distributing COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to the $200 million it had pledged earlier. Japan also stated it will provide about 30 million doses of the vaccine produced in Japan to other countries.
The UK’s announcement made so close on the heels of the vaccine summit was a “total surprise” to the government. The MOFA official sees the “1 billion doses” as a response to the U.S. announcement of 500 million doses, saying that the UK is “jumping on the bandwagon, with the desire to stand out.”
Unlike the other G7 countries, Japan’s vaccination rate has increased slowly. With public discontent growing, the UK’s announcement may place an additional burden on Japan and create difficulties for the government.