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Japan begins COVID-19 vaccine drive as Olympics loom

Virus Outbreak Japan Vaccine
Posted at 5:22 AM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 07:57:44-05

TOKYO — Japan has launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign amid questions about whether it will reach enough people quickly enough to save a Summer Olympics already delayed by the pandemic.

Despite a recent rise in infections, Japan has largely dodged the kind of cataclysm that has battered other wealthy countries. According to the Associated Press, the country is seeing about 1 infection per 100,000 people — compared with 24.5 in the United States or 18 in the United Kingdom. But the fate of the Olympics makes Japan’s vaccine campaign crucial.

Japan is also getting a later start on vaccinations than many other major economies. The U.K., U.S. and the European Union have been vaccinating people against the virus since December. But Japan fell behind because it asked Pfizer to hold clinical trials with Japanese people before opening vaccinations to all.

Experts say the late rollout will make it impossible to reach so-called herd immunity before the Olympics begin in July. That will mean officials could struggle to quell wariness among citizens about hosting the Games.

Recent polls show that many in Japan support further postponing or canceling the upcoming Summer Olympics,