Govt should Take All Steps to Ensure Prompt Vaccinations for Coronavirus

Vaccinations against the novel coronavirus have begun in Europe and North America. It is necessary to make preparations as soon as possible to ensure smooth vaccinations in Japan as well.

Britain and the United States have started immunizations using a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc., a major U.S. drugmaker. While no effective cure for COVID-19 has been found, it can be said that a glimmer of hope is seen at last.

With the arrival of winter, Europe and North America are facing drastic increases in the number of coronavirus deaths. Countries are scrambling to give vaccinations to prevent the further spread of infections through all-out efforts, even if there are some risks involved.

Doses of the new vaccine are expected to be supplied to Japan early next year or later. Expectations are high, but caution is also called for.

It usually takes several years to develop a new vaccine, but this time, more than one product has been manufactured at an exceptional pace. There are many unknown aspects, such as what side effects they could cause and how long the immunity conferred by the vaccines will last.

Vaccines developed by Pfizer and U.S. biotech firm Moderna Inc. use artificially processed ribonucleic acid (RNA) for the first time. They have been confirmed to be highly effective in clinical tests, and no serious side effects have been reported so far.

However, once large-scale vaccinations kick off, unexpected side effects could be found. The government should be able to collect promptly information on side effects at home and abroad even after vaccinations are started in Japan. The government is also urged to explain the effects of vaccines in an easy-to-understand manner.

Some of the new vaccines must be stored at temperatures as low as minus 20 C to minus 70 C to maintain their efficacy. It is necessary to secure a sufficient number of freezers and supplies of dry ice to enable the products to be transported at these ultralow temperatures.

Municipalities will reportedly vaccinate residents at local medical institutions and community halls, among other places. Considering the delicate handling that is required for virus vaccines, there is a limit on delivering these products to every small venue. It is surely necessary to consider how to invite large numbers of people to certain venues for vaccinations.

As the supply of vaccines will be limited at first, health care workers and the elderly will be given priority for getting shots. For the time being, most people must continue to follow virus protocols, such as wearing masks.

The elderly are at high risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the virus. Although vaccinations are not mandatory, the elderly are encouraged to consider voluntarily getting shots.

Municipalities will reportedly issue coupons to eligible residents. It is important for the central government to work closely with local governments to make efforts to prevent confusion over vaccinations.

It will take some time before vaccines will be supplied to every corner of the world, including developing countries, and the pandemic can be contained. Until then, it is necessary to maintain cautious behaviors to overcome the third wave of infections.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 16, 2020.