Japan launched its COVID-19 vaccination campaign to the general public on Wednesday, fix months before the country is set to host the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this July. The country could stand to lose billions of dollars if it is unable to host the rescheduled 2020 Olympics.
Japan is behind other countries, such as the United States, in terms of administering the COVID-19 vaccine because Pfizer held clinical trials with Japanese citizens. Japan's officials had tests conducted in six other nations before rolling out its own coronavirus vaccination campaign.
But being overcautious may end up hurting Japan in the long run, according to the Associated Press. Experts told the AP that this late rollout of the vaccine will make it "impossible" for Japan to have its 127 million residents (the amount need to reach herd-immunity) vaccinated before the Olympics get underway in July. In a recent media survey, an estimated 80 percent of Japanese citizens said they'd support cancellation or another postponement of the rescheduled 2020 Olympics
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and other members of government still want the Olympics to take place though. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Japan has had an estimated 420,000 cases and 7,000 deaths during the pandemic.
As the COVID-19 vaccination campaign is rolled out, about 40,000 doctors and nurses are expected to be the first group that are vaccinated. Japan is using shots that were created by Pfizer and German-based BioNTech. Much like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the United States, the Japanese vaccines require two doses.
Following medical workers receiving their COVID-19 vaccines, an estimated 36 million people, all aged 65 years or older, will begin to get vaccinated in April.