Japan won't achieve herd immunity before Olympics: researcher

Japan won't achieve herd immunity before Olympics: researcher
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Japan is unlikely to achieve herd immunity from the coronavirus by summer, when it has scheduled the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, Reuters reported.

Although the country has Asia’s largest supply of vaccines, the herd immunity benchmark of about 75 percent of the population vaccinated is likely to come around October, Rasmus Bech Hansen, the founder of British research firm Airfinity, told the news service.

“Japan looks to be quite late in the game,” Hansen said. “They’re dependent on importing many [shots] from the U.S. And at the moment, it doesn’t seem very likely they will get very large quantities of for instance, the Pfizer vaccine.”

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The nation of 126 million has arranged the purchase of 314 million doses of Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s vaccines. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged herd immunity by mid-2021. However, Pfizer in particular may have insufficient supplies for all the countries they have made arrangements with, Hansen told Reuters, saying that for example, “America needs 100 million more Pfizer vaccines to be on the safe side to reach their goals, and a lot of those 100 million would come from the Japan pile.”

Japan, one of the last developed economies to begin the vaccine rollout, said last week that it will begin inoculating about 10,000 health care workers in February. Vaccine distribution chief Tara Kono backtracked on earlier projections that the country would have secured sufficient vaccines by June, according to Reuters.

Japanese officials said Friday the games, postponed from summer 2020, would continue as planned, denying reports by Britain’s The Times that officials have privately concluded the pandemic will require their cancellation.

“It is very disappointing to see that the Times is developing such a tabloid-like story with an untrustworthy source,” an organizing committee source told Reuters last week. “The national government is fully committed to delivering a safe and secure Games.”