WORLD / ASIA-PACIFIC
Japan social media furore over prospect of vaccine priority for Olympic athletes
Published: Apr 08, 2021 08:28 PM
Japan is thinking of prioritizing COVID-19 vaccines for Olympic athletes, Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday, sparking a furor on social media as the country's inoculation drive significantly lags behind other major economies.

A decorated boat used for a traditional festival dating back to Japan's Edo period carries the Tokyo Olympic torch along a canal in Handa in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, on April 6, 2021. Photo: VCG

A decorated boat used for a traditional festival dating back to Japan's Edo period carries the Tokyo Olympic torch along a canal in Handa in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, on April 6, 2021. Photo: VCG


Only the Pfizer vaccine has so far been approved and just 1 million people have received the first dose since February out of Japan's population of 126 million. Vaccinations for the elderly are only set to start next week. This comes against a backdrop of a spike in new cases ahead of Olympics that is set to start in July.

According to government officials quoted by Kyodo late on Wednesday, Japan has begun looking into the possibility of making sure its Olympic and Paralympic athletes are all vaccinated by the end of June.

The report provoked outrage on social media, even as Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato assured there were currently no plans to prioritize athletes. 

"Give it to my mother first," wrote a Twitter user. "Athletes are all young and healthy."

Many people noted that the original plan for vaccinations gives priority to medical workers, the elderly and those with chronic conditions, with ordinary citizens unlikely to get theirs before the summer.

"This is really weird. Given that we have no idea if even all the elderly will have received their vaccines by mid-June, you're going to have all the athletes have theirs?" a user with the handle "Aoiumi2" posted on Twitter.

A number of test events for some sports have been cancelled or postponed.
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