RURIKA IMAHASHI, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — Nikkei and the Financial Times on Wednesday hosted the eighth Nikkei FT Communicable Diseases Conference in Tokyo. The two-day conference is meant to discuss how to prepare for the future pandemic by probing structural challenges revealed by COVID-19.
The aim of the conference is to shed light on issues that emerged during the coronavirus epidemic and discuss how to leverage those lessons learned and how to respond quickly to the crisis in the future.
In his opening remarks, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressed that disparity in access to vaccines remains.
“Inequitable access to vaccines remains the greatest threat to ending the acute phase of the pandemic,” said Tedros, adding that just 5% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID in Africa.
He called for more support from stakeholders to raise the global vaccination rate to 40% by the end of this year.
“That target is achievable, but only if the countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines, prioritize COVAX,” Tedros said, referring to the WHO-backed vaccine distribution program.
The conference gathered over 100 experts from various fields — government, international organizations, academia, and business, both in Japan and abroad.
On the first day of the event, there will be four main panel discussion sessions, covering the Tokyo Olympic Paralympic Games under the pandemic, reviews on testing and vaccine rollouts in Japan, as well as the medical care system during the outbreak.
While Japan has reported a relatively low COVID mortality rate, the country has been confronted with numerous obstacles including limited testing capacity, shortage of hospital beds, and delays in digitalization. Its vaccine rollout also lagged behind. Pinpointing the bottleneck will help prevent the same crisis from happening again in the future.
The conference will also include sessions on Thursday on how to utilize technologies and big data to tackle COVID and other infectious diseases, as well as how national governments should respond and make decisions in the face of the spread of communicable diseases.
As a fruit of the discussions, the conference will propose concrete and practical action plans for the world to be better prepared for future pandemics.
This is the eighth conference on this issue, following the seventh meeting held last year in the city of Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture.