Central, local govts must share data to overcome vaccine dose shortage

Due to the shortage of vaccines against the novel coronavirus, suspensions and cancellations of vaccination reservations have been occurring one after another. The government needs to grasp the actual situation and work to resolve the confusion.

As a step to address the issue, the government has announced the number of doses it will supply to each municipality in August. Previously, municipalities were not told the number of doses they would receive until the last minute, and this has been an obstacle for them in making vaccination plans.

The government said it will supply 11.7 million doses nationwide in the first two weeks of August, and about the same amount will be distributed in the second half of the month. This may be an attempt to clear the logjam in vaccination drives, but there is no denying that the announcement came late.

Individual local governments enhanced their vaccination rollout systems in response to central government requests, only to end up in the unfortunate situation of having to cancel the venues and staffers they had secured because they critically did not receive the actual vaccine itself. Moreover, the supply from August onward is still not sufficient. The government should take its laxity in its planning seriously.

Japan is to receive additional supplies of more than 100 million doses in total by September from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna, Inc. of the United States. Many local governments already have vaccination systems in place. The central government should actively negotiate with both companies to receive the supply ahead of schedule.

By the end of June, the government had distributed about 90 million doses to municipalities. It argues that about 40 million of these doses have not been used.

Therefore, the government decided to adjust the amount of vaccine supplied to municipalities, according to the vaccination progress they have made. The government said it would reduce the supply to municipalities that have not yet used all the vaccine, and distribute more of it to municipalities that have been vaccinating at a faster pace.

Some local governments have objected to the move. They argue that it is only natural to keep some vaccine on hand for the second round of vaccinations when there is no way to foresee whether or not enough vaccine will be available.

The central, prefectural and municipal governments must share information closely and dispel mutual distrust.

In the background, there is a problem with the central government’s registration system. The process of entering information on people who have been vaccinated is cumbersome, and progress is not immediately reflected, which is said to have led to a false impression that municipalities are hoarding vaccine. Measures to correct the situation must be taken.

In Tokyo, where COVID-19 infection numbers continue to climb, the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients in their 50s is increasing due to the slow progress in vaccinating in this generation. There are a limited number of hospital beds that can handle such patients, and there are concerns that the medical system will be strained. Urgent vaccination of this generation is needed.

Vaccines are the game changer in the fight against the novel coronavirus. It is essential to create a mechanism to allow all those who wish to be vaccinated to receive their shots as soon as possible.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 17, 2021.