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Olympic minister faces backlash for saying one COVID-19 shot gives 'primary immunity'

Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa is seen in Tokyo's Chuo Ward after a meeting of the central government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the organizing committee, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, on April 28, 2021. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa has come under fire for saying that the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations would provide "primary immunity" after she was asked about the possibility of Olympic and Paralympic volunteer workers not being able to get their second shot by the end of the games.

    Studies have shown that coronavirus vaccines are not fully effective unless administered twice, and social media users are calling the minister's comment "unscientific."

    According to the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, vaccinations for some 70,000 volunteer workers were set to start on June 30. The Moderna vaccines secured for them require four weeks between the first and second shot. Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare says on its website that it takes at least 14 days from the second Moderna shot to develop sufficient immunity. Volunteer workers would be getting their second shot from July 31 and onward, and concerns remain that many of them would not benefit from the vaccine's full effect during the games scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8.

    Confronted with a question about this at a post-Cabinet meeting news conference on June 29, Marukawa explained, "In the first place, we have been preparing to hold a safe games based on the assumption that vaccinations would not be provided. To create a safer and more secure environment, we have been working to secure vaccines and build a vaccination system (for volunteer workers)." She continued, "We will have them get primary immunity from the first round of vaccinations."

    Her comment was met with a fierce backlash on Twitter, with people calling it "unscientific." Other tweets included, "Don't spread false information," and "So why do we need two shots?" One tweet read, "In the first place, we were not anticipating having the games in the pandemic," questioning the legitimacy of going ahead with the games amid concerns over the spread of mutant strains.

    (Japanese original by Asako Kamihigashi, Digital News Center)

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