Japan has begun vaccinating its elderly residents against COVID-19 as Tokyo imposes a set of tougher restrictions to blunt a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Only about 120 sites across Japan opened Monday to distribute the first dose of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine to people 65 and older. Officials say they expect about 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive by the end of June, enough to inoculate Japan’s 36 million elderly residents as the country races to vaccinate as many people as possible in time for the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on July 23.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has urged bars and restaurants in the prefecture to reduce their normal business hours, and is urging residents to avoid non-essential trips under an order that will remain in effect until May 11. Many areas of Japan are under various states of emergency due to growing rates of new coronavirus infections, which have complicated plans for the traditional relay of the Olympic torch across the country.
Britain eases restrictions
Monday marked the beginning of Britain’s reopening after nearly three months under a strict lockdown in response to a new wave of infections sparked by more transmissible strain of the coronavirus discovered late last year in the southeastern county of Kent. Thousands of gyms, hair salons, retail shops and zoos reopened their doors across England, along with bars and restaurants, which are limited to just outdoor service.
Similar restrictions remain in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have their own timetables for reopening.
Britain has the sixth highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world with 4.3 million confirmed cases, including 127,331 deaths, the fifth highest in that category, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The country has administered more than 39 million doses of vaccines, with almost 7 million people fully vaccinated. The United States continues to lead in both cases and deaths, with 31.1 million total infections and 562,066 deaths.
China looking at other vaccines
Meanwhile, China said it is considering using vaccines developed in other countries in conjunction with vaccines developed in China to boost the efficacy of China’s vaccines.
Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told attendees at a conference in the southwest city of Chengdu Saturday that public health officials must “consider ways to solve the issue that efficacy rates of existing vaccines are not high.”
Gao’s comments were a rare admission from China about its domestically produced COVID-19 vaccines. Health authorities in Brazil say late-stage clinical trials of the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Beijing-based private company Sinovac was just barely over 50% effective. In the United Arab Emirates, medical workers have recently begun offering a third dose of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm company after reports surfaced of very low numbers of antibodies produced after the two dose regimen.