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Despite Suga’s pledge, only 75% of seniors got both jabs

  • August 3, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 5:06 p.m.
  • English Press


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was crowing only the other day that he had met his pledge made three months ago to ensure that all senior citizens aged 65 and older would be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they wanted to.


It turns out he was way wrong.


At a July 30 news conference, Suga said, “For senior citizens who are at greater risk of developing serious symptoms, I believe we have been able to meet our goal.”


Suga announced April 23 that the government was seeking to complete giving two jabs each to older individuals by the end of July.


But according to the Cabinet Secretariat website, which displays the number of people who have been inoculated, 86.2 percent of those aged 65 and older had only received one jab as of July 31 while 75.5 percent had gotten the prescribed two.


Officials said the actual percentage could be slightly higher than the figures on the Cabinet Secretariat website because the numbers are based on entries into the government’s vaccination data base by local governments and medical institutions. Some entries may be inputted days after the fact.


When asked how the government would define the completion of vaccinations for different age groups, a high-ranking official in the prime minister’s office snapped, “When we stop receiving new reservations for vaccinations.”


But a large number of senior citizens still have reservations for jabs in August, so it remains unclear when the process will be completed.


Vaccinations of senior citizens began on April 12.


Another milestone Suga set–1 million jabs a day–was reached by the end of June, but the haste to set up vaccination programs at workplaces and universities led to shortages of vaccines around the nation, forcing many local governments to stop accepting reservations as they were unsure how many doses they would have on hand.


The more virulent Delta strain, which is now predominant, is cited as the primary cause of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases around Japan. With more patients in their 40s and 50s developing serious symptoms, Suga set a new goal of having 40 percent of the entire population receiving two vaccine doses by late August.


Taro Kono, the state minister in charge of administrative reform who also is coordinating the vaccination program within the central government, is expected this week to announce the delivery schedule for vaccines in September. That will give local governments a better grasp of how many reservations they can take.


However, the process of vaccinating the entire Japanese population is still at a crawl compared with other advanced nations. As of Aug. 1, officials said 34.5 percent of all Japanese had received one jab, while only about 24.6 percent had gotten the full two doses.


(This article was written by Junya Sakamoto and Hiroki Koizumi.)

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