The Japanese government led the effort to establish the COVAX Facility and co-hosted the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) Summit on June 2. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has pledged Japan will fully support the delivery of safe and effective vaccines to as many people as possible in a fair manner.
Japan has promised a donation of $1 billion (approximately 110 billion yen) in total to the COVAX initiative. In addition, Japan has made direct vaccine donations to Taiwan and other nations, of which about 11 million doses have already been delivered. Japan is also providing free of charge approximately 11 million doses of vaccines to Cambodia and Sri Lanka via the COVAX framework.
The Japanese government’s vaccine donation has three tiers: (1) vaccine development and production; (2) delivery and supply, including support for building the COVAX framework; and (3) administration of vaccines to individuals in developing countries. A senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Japanese support program has been more thorough than the Chinese one, which only involves development and delivery.
Yet, unlike the U.S. and China, Japan doesn’t advertise its achievements in vaccine donations overseas to the Japanese public. “[The government is] concerned about public opinion,” says the aforementioned senior MOFA official. “The Japanese people might criticize the government for not more aggressively moving forward with the vaccination program at home if it had enough vaccine doses to be able to make donations overseas.”
According to a government source, many in the government were willing to donate the AstraZeneca vaccine because it was not being used domestically. On July 30, however, the government shifted its policy, and now the AstraZeneca vaccine can be administered to Japanese.
“How many AstraZeneca vaccines Japan uses domestically may affect how fast Japan can deliver vaccines overseas for free,” says another senior MOFA official, suggesting uncertainties surrounding Japan’s vaccine donations in the future.