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Why Japan took so long to start Covid-19 vaccinations, even with the Olympics looming

February 27, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 19.1%. 1 min read.

With the Olympic games due to start in Tokyo in July, Japan had every reason to move quickly to approve a Covid-19 vaccine and begin inoculations.

Tokyo (CNN)With the Olympic games due to start in Tokyo in July, Japan had every reason to move quickly to approve a Covid-19 vaccine and begin inoculations.

After a series of vaccine scandals stretching back 50 years, Japan has one of the lowest rates of vaccine confidence in the world -- so winning over a skeptical public is crucial.

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of Japan's coronavirus vaccine rollout, said the country's clinical trial was conducted to build public trust in the program.

"I think it is more important for the Japanese government to show the Japanese people that we have done everything possible to prove the efficacy and the safety of the vaccine -- to encourage the Japanese people to take the vaccine," Kono said.

According to a study published in medical journal The Lancet that mapped vaccine confidence in 149 countries between 2015 and 2019, fewer than 30% of people in Japan strongly agreed vaccines were safe, important and effective -- compared to 50% in the US.

After the MMR scandal, Shibuya says the Japanese government became "risk aware" and its national vaccination program became voluntary.

Dr. Yuho Horikoshi, an expert in infectious diseases, says the lawsuits led to a "vaccination gap," where no vaccines were approved in Japan for about 15 years.

Japan's resistance to vaccinations presents a problem for the government when it comes to rolling out the coronavirus vaccine.

In the buildup to the Olympics, Shibuya says the government needs to focus on advocating to the public that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe, important and essential.

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