ito4_Yuichi YamazakiGetty Images_olympics japan Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

An Olympic-Size COVID Risk

Without herd immunity (or something close to it) in Japan, hosting the Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games is a risky bet. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga could win big if there is no new wave of infections, but that doesn't change the fact that he is willing to gamble with people’s health, livelihoods, and lives.

TOKYO – In 2020, Asia – especially East Asia – was often touted as a model of effective pandemic response. While Western countries endured harsh lockdowns and soaring infection and death rates, Asian countries largely kept the coronavirus under control. But the tables have turned, with East Asia now lagging far behind the United States and Europe on vaccinations. This does not bode well for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

As of June 15, Japan had the second worst vaccination record among the 38 OECD countries, with 20.9 doses per 100 people. Contrast that with the United Kingdom’s 106.1 doses per 100 people, and the US rate of 93.3 doses per 100.

Why is Japan lagging so far behind the rest of the OECD? For starters, the government was late in securing purchase agreements with vaccine producers, not least because the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare was reluctant to provide rapid emergency approval to the new vaccines.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading and receive unfettered access to all content, subscribe now.



Unlock additional commentaries for FREE by registering.