Thursday, May 06, 2021

William Pesek on the Slow Vaccine Rollout

The Washington Post has published a badly titled William Pesek opinion piece: "Why Japan is failing so badly on vaccinations?" While I sympathize with editorial need for a punchy title of reasonable brevity, describing the current vaccination effort as a "failure" is both premature and presumptuous. It is indeed not sustainable, for Pesek quickly and nakedly swerves off into trying to answer another question, "With the Olympics only three months away, only 2% of Japanese are vaccinated for Covid-19. Why?" -- which is a fair, but far less exciting topic. [With a derogatory title and a quote from my boss, Jeff Kingston, the piece seems tailor made to set off poor, old Earl Kinmonth.] The second, longer more specifc question is a good one. Japan's Covid-19 vaccination rate is dramatically lower at this point in time than the vaccination rate of other OECD countries. This is peculiar as Japan, contrary to what Pesek asserts, has only a fragmented and inconsistent anti-vaxxer movement. Japanese citizens and most foreign residents have also been excellent in carrying out masking and other preventative measures on a voluntary basis. The country's government is also reputed to be highly organized (it is) and Japan's public health system sound (ditto). There is also the vaccination imperative Pesek notes of the country's elites not wanting Japan to fall on its face in hosting the Olympics. Regulations, such as the requirement that only doctors do vaccinations, might be bottlenecks slowing the process down -- though these regulations have heretofore have not interfered with annual mass vaccinations for influenza. The Japanese government's preference for Japan-produced (kokusan) everything and the lack of a domestic supplier of a Covid-19 vaccine could be another cause of the slow ramp up. However, the Government of Japan went on a buying spree of vaccines early on to address the lack of progress on the domestic front. So what is happening -- or not happening, as the case may be? I will offer some thoughts tomorrow.

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