Japan denies giving Olympic athletes priority for vaccine

TOKYO: Japan said yesterday it was not currently looking to prioritise Covid-19 vaccines for Olympic athletes, dismissing a media report that sparked a social media outcry since the country's inoculations are trailing other major economies.

Only a million people have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine since February, out of Japan's population of 126 million, and the more vulnerable elderly do not even start getting their shots until next week.

New infections have spiked ahead of the Olympics, which are set to start in July.

Tokyo saw 545 new cases yesterday and its governor said she would ask the central government to impose emergency measures in the capital region.

A Kyodo news agency report, citing government officials, said Japan had begun looking into the possibility of ensuring its Olympic and Paralympic athletes are all vaccinated by the end of June.

The outrage on social media continued despite Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato denying the report and saying the government was not looking to give priority to athletes.

"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.

Others noted that Japan's original plan gives priority to medical workers, the elderly and those with chronic conditions, with ordinary citizens unlikely to get their vaccines before the summer. - REUTERS