20 Jun Japan plans digital passports for vaccinated citizens
It appears that Japan looks set to follow in the footsteps of the likes of China and the EU in launching digital passports for vaccinated citizens launching digital passports for vaccinated citizens.
These digital health certificates aim to help Japan manage and speed up its vaccination programme and allow citizens to take part in activities more freely. Japan’s vaccination efforts for COVID-19 are certainly not world leading, and it’s thought that the health certificate is being introduced to open up a different way for citizens to get back to a more normal existence.
Why Japan intends to launch digital passports
While Japan’s vaccination programme is lagging behind a number of other developed countries, progress is being made. The latest figures show that 23.7 million doses of the coronavirus vaccination have been administered to Japanese citizens.
More than six million people in Japan are now fully vaccinated. However, this does only equate to 4.8% of the population. If we compare this with the US, for example, we can see that 144 million people are fully vaccinated, which is 43.8% of the country’s population.
The UK stands at 44.7% of the population with 71.3 million doses given so far. The likes of India, Russia and Indonesia are lagging, but only India has administered less than Japan. It’s worth noting that we don’t have access to complete data for China.
However, there is clearly an enormously long way to go for Japan.
What is the status of Japan’s vaccination rollout currently?
The Japanese Government is moving to try to follow the faster progress of vaccination rollout, with the Tokyo Olympics in sight. At the moment, vaccines are still only available for people over the age of 65 and for medical workers.
Here’s a brief timeline of the vaccination rollout so far for Japan:
January 2021: At the end of the month local clinical trials began in Japan for Moderna’s vaccine. Pfizer’s clinical trial data was also submitted. Japan demands more clinical tests than other countries to ensure the vaccination’s safety, which is one of the reasons it’s running behind other countries.
Early February 2021: AstraZeneca applied for approval and the Pfizer vaccine was officially approved by Japan on 14 February.
Mid-February 2021: Pfizer’s vaccines began to be rolled out in Japan on 17 February. The first batch was administered to 20,000 frontline healthcare workers. Around 3.7 million more healthcare workers were next in line, and the gap between shots was set at three weeks.
March 2021: Daiichi Sankyo Co, the Japanese drugs manufacturer, began to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine saying that as soon as the Government approves it they will administer it. At the end of the month the Pfizer vaccine started being given to people over 65.
May 2021: It wasn’t until 21 May 2021 that the Government officially approved the Moderna and the AstraZeneca vaccines. On 24 May, large-scale vaccination delivery centres were opened in Osaka and Tokyo.
June 2021: The Government says that vaccines could be rolled out to people under 65 years old sometime in June. It’s possible that athletes coming to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in July 2021 may get vaccinated by the end of June. However, the Government has said this is not necessary for them to compete in the games.
July 2021: The official goal is to vaccinate all senior people by the end of July. To expedite the process, officials are planning to open up mass vaccination centres in July that will be open for 24 hours a day.
September 2021: According to a piece in The Japan Times, the Government’s head of the vaccination programme Taro Kono says that Japan will have enough vaccines available to inoculate everyone 16 and older by the end of the month.
November 2021: This is the target month for completion of the vaccination rollout to all citizens who want it.
Many challenges ahead for Japan but digital passports will boost economy
These may be the aims, but Japan is facing a number of challenges in the rollout. As well as difficulties distributing vaccines to every part of the country while abiding by the storage needs of the vaccines, there is also a lack of enthusiasm for take up from citizens.
This lack of urgency from people could be down to a certain level of complacency. After all, they’ve been living in this way for a long time, and it’s difficult to keep up the level of urgency under these circumstances. However, the risk of COVID-19 in Japan is still high.
Cities in Japan are known for their high density. From cities like Nagoya where there are 2,000 people per square kilometre to Tokyo where there are up to 10,000 per square kilometre. The Government has made it clear that a fast distribution is necessary to keep the country safe from anther spike.
For those who are vaccinated, the health certificates mentioned earlier will make life a lot easier. The release of a digital vaccine passport will allow vaccinated citizens to travel. And as there is going to be a similar system in the EU and China, Japan can open its borders to people who have a similar digital passport.
The digital vaccine passport should boost Japan’s economy. We’ve already seen the stock markets show signs of improving, and when the passport is fully implemented this will increase. And after 15 months of living with this pandemic, this is the kind of positive news that Japanese people need.