Japan Expert Panel OK’s Revised Action Plan for Next Pandemic; Infection Prevention Balanced With Social, Economic Concerns

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
People with masks are seen walking in Kita Ward, Osaka, in March 2022.

A government expert panel broadly approved a revised draft of an action plan on infectious diseases on Wednesday, in preparation for the next pandemic.

Based on the lessons of the novel coronavirus crisis, the revision calls for the introduction of “flexible and prompt” action in infection prevention measures in order to strike a balance with social and economic activities.

The Cabinet will approve the draft in June after soliciting opinions from the public. The action plan on measures against new types of influenza and other infectious diseases was formulated in 2013, and this is the first time it will be fundamentally revised.

The proposed plan covers 13 items, including seven newly added items on vaccines and border control measures, among other things. Measures to be taken during each phase of preparations, plus initial responses and full-fledged responses, were summarized. The revision states that measures such as states of emergency and quasi-emergency priority measures will be implemented, if necessary, in times of high burdens on healthcare systems, even when scientific findings are not conclusive.

It emphasizes that the measures would be modified flexibly according to circumstances, such as the availability of vaccines and therapeutic drugs, to “mitigate the impact on people’s lives and social and economic activities.”

With regard to vaccines, the panel indicated a policy to promote research and development during normal times, and to establish necessary systems for the production, distribution and administration of vaccines in the event of an emergency.

In addition to the stockpiling of necessary supplies such as masks by the central and local governments, the plan calls for promoting the production and importation of supplies in the event of an emergency and the establishment of a system to ensure distribution of the products to medical institutions and other organizations. The action plan will be revised about every six years.