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Local bodies with 'no leftover vaccines' upset by Japan gov't plan to cut supplies

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura is seen speaking about how the prefecture will allocate COVID-19 vaccine supplies at the Osaka Prefectural Government building on July 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Yasutoshi Tsurumi)

Opposition has been voiced among some municipalities in Japan, including the major cities of Sapporo, Nagoya and Osaka, over the government's plan to reduce their COVID-19 vaccine supplies on the grounds that they have sufficient stocks -- a claim they dispute.

    Under the plan for the first half of August disclosed by the Japanese government, the reduced amount will go to a stockpile handled by prefectural governments which can allocate the supplies to municipalities at their discretion.

    The city of Sapporo claimed it does not hold "excessive stocks," while Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura expressed discontent with a 10% reduction in the city's basic vaccine supplies, allocated based on population, for the first half of August. He told reporters on July 13, "We don't have any leftover vaccines. The national government needs to handle this properly."

    Although the central Japan city of Nagoya was set to receive 160,290 vaccine doses as basic supplies, the amount indicated by the national government's distribution plan was 145,080 doses. The municipal government argued that its move of securing supplies while taking into account the second round of vaccinations "made it seem that stocks had increased."

    The Japanese government has defined "stocks" as supplies of vaccines yet to be administered that will last over six weeks, when making calculations using the average number of shots given recently. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said it "considered the reality in the field" for making the decision, but the Nagoya Municipal Government protested against the ministry, saying it cannot consent to this. The city intends to seek additional supplies distributed at the prefecture's discretion.

    The city of Sapporo in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido also announced in a July 13 press conference that it will temporarily suspend vaccine delivery to medical institutions between July 16 and 25, in response to the decrease in supplies. It also plans to ask some of the individuals who have already made reservations to change or cancel their vaccination appointments. In addition to securing vaccines for the second round of inoculations, delays in making entries in the national government's vaccination record system seem to have been factors that influenced the decision to reduce supplies for certain municipalities.

    Meanwhile, the handling of supplies to be allocated to municipalities at the discretion of prefectures, which is to be decided this week, is another point of focus moving forward. While there has been a significant difference in inoculation speed depending on local bodies, this distribution system was introduced out of hope for measures to be taken befitting the situation of each area.

    Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura revealed July 13 that the prefecture intends to allocate half of the vaccine supplies left to their discretion to municipalities based on the numbers of new infections amid the fourth coronavirus wave. He explained, "If the amount is limited, we should distribute them to the places (city areas) where outbreaks (of infection) are liable to occur." He also said that the remaining half of supplies allocated to the prefecture will be distributed based on population, and asked for the understanding of residents in non-urban areas.

    (Japanese original by Junichi Tsuchiya, Hokkaido News Department, Masakatsu Oka, Nagoya News Center and Yasutoshi Tsurumi, Osaka City News Department)

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