Expedite efforts to secure personnel for campaign to vaccinate elderly

Vaccines are the decisive factor in containing the novel coronavirus pandemic. First of all, efforts to secure medical workers must be expedited to enable prompt vaccinations of the elderly, who are more likely to become seriously ill.

An initial batch of doses for about 50,000 people was distributed for the coronavirus vaccinations for the elderly that started on Monday. The vaccine is said to have been administered in most prefectures.

The vaccine being used is manufactured by Pfizer Inc. of the United States. Two doses have been shown to be 95% effective in preventing the onset of COVID-19. In the United States, it has been reported that infections and deaths in elderly care facilities have been reduced by more than 90%. The vaccination rollout must be expedited in Japan.

According to a survey of medical workers who received priority vaccinations in Japan, those aged 65 and older were less likely to experience side effects than younger generations. However, people should be prepared for side effects such as fever, headache and lethargy.

Although there is no need to be overly concerned about side effects, there may be many elderly people who find it difficult to communicate clearly. It is essential for medical workers and facility staff to carefully observe those who have been vaccinated and take all possible measures to manage their physical condition.

Japan’s vaccination rollout is lagging behind those in other advanced countries. The vaccination campaign for the nation’s about 4.7 million medical workers started in February, but due to the global shortage of vaccines and other factors, only about 1.1 million people have been vaccinated.

Full-scale supply is not expected to start until May. The government has said it will secure vaccines for all of the about 36 million elderly people in Japan by the end of June, subject to approval by the European Union where the vaccine is produced. The government must work hard to obtain approval.

Although a large quantity of vaccines is said to be arriving in June, the distribution plan is unclear, making it difficult for local governments to prepare vaccination schedules. It is important for the government to indicate the supply schedule as soon as possible to avoid disruptions.

Many municipalities are planning to set up special sites, but 20% of them have complained of nurse shortages.

A private research organization estimates that the vaccination of the elderly will not proceed smoothly due to the shortage of nurses, and that the completion of the vaccination phase will be delayed until autumn.

There is an urgent need to greatly increase the dispatch of doctors and nurses from medical institutions, and for the reinstatement of nurses who have left the workforce to raise children, among other reasons. The central and local governments must do their utmost to secure personnel.

Coronavirus infections are surging again. If the number of patients continues to increase, it will likely become even more difficult to secure medical workers for the vaccination campaign.

The area covered by emergency-level priority measures to prevent the spread of the virus was widened on Monday to include more municipalities. It is important for each and every one of us to be vigilant and prevent infection.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on April 13, 2021.