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With the rollout in vaccinations for those age 65 and over finally underway, magazines in Japan have taken up the topic from a variety of perspectives.

As persuasive proof that vaccines can be counted on to do what they’re supposed to, a graph in Shukan Taishu (June 7) shows the declining daily number of reported infections in the United Kingdom between December and May.

The magazine also issues 10 practical advisories for those preparing to be vaccinated. For example, people with health concerns should arrange for someone accompany them to the vaccination site; older individuals or those with chronic conditions should take a taxi to and from the venue; before reserving a jab, those with allergies or pre-existing conditions should enquire with their physician beforehand; for the first week after the jab, avoid pressing against the tender area around the injection; take extra care to keep hydrated; expect more pronounced side effects following the second jab; and, finally, continue wearing a face mask and taking the same precautions you did before the vaccination.

“The vaccines have an efficacy rate of 90% or greater, but cases have occurred of vaccinated people contracting COVID-19 or becoming asymptomatic carriers,” says Osamu Kuwamitsu, head of the Gohongi Clinic in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward. “It’s essential that precautions be continued.”

For those looking for a vaccine that comes with a “made in Japan” label, Shukan Post (June 11) scrutinizes the activities of Japanese five pharmaceutical manufacturers — AnGes, Inc., Shionogi & Co. Ltd., Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd., KM Biologics and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.

With the exception of AnGes, Inc., which is further along, the firms are presently in their first stage of clinical testing. By the end of the year, Shionogi & Co. Ltd. is reportedly preparing for release of 30 million vaccine doses utilizing recombinant protein. The others were uncertain as to when their vaccines would be ready.

“It’s not just about bringing the novel coronavirus pandemic under control,” says Yoshiaki Katsuda, a professor at Kansai University of Social Welfare. “It’s possible that annual vaccinations will become necessary, the way influenza vaccinations are done now.”

Katsuda also pointed out that if a new outbreak caused by a variant of the virus were to occur, there might be a shortfall in the supply of vaccines.

“So it’s absolutely essential for Japan to develop and prepare a production system on its own,” he says.

The good news is that the government is said to be moving ahead in simplifying the approval process.

“In the future, it’s possible that Japan will approve domestic vaccines more rapidly than anyone expected,” Katsuda says.

At the present stage, forming conclusions concerning the speed of rollouts is somewhat daunting. While as of May 27, the average percentage of recipients of the first jab among those age 65 and over was 10.1%, Shukan Asahi (June 11) has observed a considerable disparity in rollouts among Japan’s 47 prefectures.

Based on percentages of recipients relative to their respective over-65 population, the five most rapid were Wakayama (23.4%), Yamaguchi (20.7%), Saga (18.1%), Tottori (18%) and Kochi (17.8%). Tokyo, tied with Nagano, was slightly above midpoint at 11.1%. At the bottom were Kanagawa and Hokkaido (7.3%), Hyogo and Tochigi (7%), Nagasaki (6.3%) and Mie (6.1%) prefectures. In prefectures with the lowest rollouts, difficulties in the registration process were blamed, but people can’t even agree on the figures.

A Mie official involved in vaccinations told Shukan Asahi: “The national government recorded around 32,000 people for the first round, but the figure we have is 65,000. In other words, 12%. The national government’s registration system is cumbersome, so (Mie’s low figure) is due to the time lag.”

While total vaccinations in the wards and municipalities in the Tokyo metropolis averaged only 11.1%, Tokyo’s Sumida Ward achieved an impressive 31% by May 25 — 7.6% more than the rate recorded by Wakayama Prefecture. The secret of its success, according to the public information official at the ward office, was to involve four staff from the election secretariat at the planning stage. Their considerable organizational skills clearly made a difference.

Meanwhile, Shukan Jitsuwa (June 17) reports how “It’s me” fraudsters around the nation have wasted no time in devising new scams targeting older people.

“People posing as public health officials or local government staff have been claiming they can expedite PCR tests or vaccinations, but request the payment of a ‘reservation fee,'” a spokesperson for the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan says.

Anyone receiving suspicious telephone calls requesting payment is urged to notify the police.

Finally, Yukan Fuji should be credited for its informative “Vaccination Q&A,” a daily column of miscellany aimed at collating new information and dispelling confusion. Its installment of June 4, for example, mentions how large companies such as Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., AEON Co. Ltd. and others have been allotting paid holidays for both regular workers and part-timers to get jabbed.

Toyota has also made its headquarters in Aichi Prefecture available for vaccinations, where it is harnessing its vaunted “Toyota production system” knowhow to oversee operations.

Big in Japan is a weekly column that focuses on issues being discussed by domestic media organizations.

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