Syringe problem likely to keep process from being as fast as it could be, though.

Japan experienced a spike in coronavirus infections towards the end of last year, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo and several of the country’s most populous prefectures. At a conference in the capital on Wednesday, however, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had some good news for the nation.

“We have confirmed the effectiveness and safety [of the coronavirus vaccine],” Suga stated, “and we will begin administering inoculations in the middle of next week,”

The Japanese has historically been extremely cautious about approving foreign-developed medicines for use within the country, It wasn’t until last October, for example, that a decision was made to allow Japanese women to purchase morning-after pills without a prescription. The critical necessity of vaccinations against the coronavirus, however, seems to have fast-tracked the process for U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s vaccination to be cleared for use in Japan.

With the entire country needing to be vaccinated, the process is going to be a lengthy one, and the first-priority group will be medical workers, followed by senior citizens, who make up a large proportion of Japan’s population. Then come individuals with preexisting health conditions that put them at high risk of infection and/or serious consequences, with everyone else somewhere farther back in line.

Patience is probably going to be extra important because of an issue involving syringes. The bottles for Pfizer’s vaccines contain enough medicine for six doses, but only if a special low-dead space syringe is used. However, a shortage of such syringes in Japan means that many inoculation centers will be only to extract five doses per bottle, and the unextractable portions will need to be discarded. As a result, the initial vaccine shipment, which was expected to be enough to inoculate 72 million people, may only end up being enough for 60 million, a little less than half of Japan’s total population of approximately 126.2 million.

Still, there’s a Japanese proverb, Senri no michi ha ippo kara, which translates to “Even journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and this first step towards life getting back to normal in Japan, including the country being able to open its borders to travelers from abroad, is something we’re all very much looking forward to.

Sources: Jiji via Jin, Jiji (2), NHK News Web, Japan Today, Japan Times
Top image: Pakutaso
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