July 7, 2021 at 16:07 JST
A medical worker prepares a shot of Moderna vaccine in Chiba on June 21. (The Asahi Shimbun)
One after another, local governments are halting taking reservations for vaccinations against the novel coronavirus.
That's because they no longer know when to expect vaccine supplies from the central government, even though the latter is responsible for securing two doses per person as a rule.
Some municipalities are even notifying residents of last-minute cancellations of their standing appointments.
Naturally, the heads of local administrative entities are irate and condemning the central government for mishandling the vaccine rollout.
The government must try to minimize the chaos by carefully checking the current nationwide inventory and future procurement prospects, and make necessary adjustments wherever possible.
According to a vaccine shipment plan for the latter half of this month, announced by the government last week, the available supply of Pfizer vaccines is only about 30 percent of the amount sought by local governments.
On July 6, the government also revealed its plan for August and September. But the available supply is no larger than for the month of July, which does nothing to allay the concerns of local authorities.
That said, however, not a few municipalities are believed to have some vaccines in stock, as they have used only about half the amount delivered to them.
Still, it is a fact that local governments across the nation have been scrambling to set up their vaccination schedules after they were forced to revise their original plans in response to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's declaration to "have all seniors vaccinated by the end of July" and "administer 1 million jabs per day."
Local authorities are certainly not happy to be told now by Taro Kono, the administrative reform minister in charge of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, to "optimize the pace of inoculations according to supply availability."
In late June, mass administration of Moderna vaccines at corporations and universities were terminated only a fortnight after the submission of applications began. Also scrapped were new applications for mass vaccinations administered by prefectural governments.
The public always gets the short end of the stick when the government goads the people into compliance and then pulls the rug out from under them, leaving them in the lurch.
Everything that went wrong with this vaccine rollout was the government's doing--stepping on the gas without first checking the inventory and confirming the amount of vaccines available for distribution, and then braking hard in a panic when the situation became untenable.
Ultimately, all that the government "achieved" was to drive front-line health care workers to exhaustion for no reason and demoralize them, and delay the distribution of vaccines as a result.
An examination is also in order to determine if people with underlying conditions, workers at elderly nursing care facilities and others who should be vaccinated as soon as possible have been passed over because of the government policy of "speedy inoculation of as many people as possible."
While questions are being raised about the fairness of the order of priority under which people are getting their shots, vaccinations of Olympic volunteers are proceeding smoothly, which does not sit well at all with some people.
In addition to vaccines being provided by Pfizer to Olympic-related people, the Japanese government is also offering its stash of Moderna vaccines.
For the sake of people cooperating with the Summer Games, of course we know they should be getting vaccinated now. But their second jab won't be due until after late July, which means the Games will be over by the time everyone is fully vaccinated.
This is yet another reminder of the shallowness of the government's slogan of "safety and peace of mind," and it adds to our already lengthy list of things we do not trust the government on.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 7
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