Japanese cities use tsunami lessons for COVID-19 vaccination

On June 9, 2021, a gymnasium that became a mass vaccination center for the elderly is depicted in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture. REUTERS / Rocky Swift

June 11, 2021

Rocky Swift

Soma, Japan (Reuters) – Tamio Hayashi (77) did not expect to be able to navigate the Internet system set up to register the COVID-19 vaccine throughout Japan.

He disliked the idea of ​​using a “troublesome” system that confused and confused other older people, hindering the promotion of vaccination in Japan.

Fortunately, local officials in his small northeastern town helped him through bureaucracy, and he got his shot. This is unusual in Japan, where authorities are competing to inoculate vulnerable older people in just six weeks before the start of the Summer Olympics.

“This method is great,” Hayashi told Reuters after he and his wife had taken a second dose at a local gymnasium. “I just get a notification that I’m coming on that day.”

Soma, a rural city 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, was vaccinated by noting lessons learned from the catastrophe 10 years ago. It surged ahead of most of the country.

According to Reuters trackers, Japan is far behind in vaccination of its people compared to other developed countries. Compared to France, 12% have been vaccinated at least once. France is the second lowest and most advanced with 42% of the Group of Seven industrial powers. Canada, 63%.

Soma’s agile and homemade approach avoids the booking system and fragmented efforts that are common throughout Japan. The city inoculates 84% ​​of the elderly (about 28% of the country) and aims to inoculate young people up to the age of 16 by the end of July, just as the Olympics are now beginning. ..

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga hopes to fully vaccinate the elderly in Japan by July and vaccinate all adults by November. But that would require boosting from its peak of about 700,000 to 1 million shots per day.

Part of Soma’s success is due to its small population of 35,000, making it easier to reach people in cities on the Pacific coast of Fukushima than medical staff in huge urban areas.

But the tragic lesson of killing 450 people when the tsunami hit 4 km (2.5 miles) inland has led to success in many unsuccessful cities in Japan.

“People come together”

The importance of planning and communicating the disaster to Soma, working closely with local health professionals, gathering affected people in a concentrated location, and not waiting for plans from Tokyo to come down. Said Katsuhiro Abe, Deputy Mayor.

“I don’t know if this wouldn’t have been possible without the earthquake disaster,” Abe said. “But this vaccination program is related to the experience of the city government and the people who have come together to deal with it over the last decade.”

Japan avoided the huge number of COVID-19 cases and deaths found in many countries, but vaccine deployment began much later in mid-February and initially suffered from a shortage of imported vaccines. Was there.

Since then, distribution has become uneven, but the booking system has stopped working and has confused older people who prioritize shots.

Using the lessons learned from 2011, Soma leaders and doctors began planning and conducting vaccination training in December, months before the vaccine was approved.

The city has set up a central vaccination center to protect health care workers. Residents were called from the block, no reservations were required, and the city sent buses for those who could not travel alone.

Abe, a lifelong resident of Soma, knows that Soma’s neighbors will take care of each other after the last disaster, but city officials are accustomed to shifting gear from clerical work to crisis management. Said.

Townspeople are actively shuttled to the waiting area and screenings, then moved to the area partitioned for shots.

When some older patients were rushed to turn left or right for a shot, the staff improvised with a cartoon poster on the wall: heading to the bunny to inject into your right arm. Turn to the dog to put it in the left arm.

“Strategy needs to be tailored to local culture and circumstances,” said Kenji Shibuya, who resigned as director of the Institute for Population and Health at King’s College London this spring, promoting Soma’s COVID-19 vaccination. Assisted.

“It’s a war,” said Shibuya, who is constantly criticizing Japan’s response to the pandemic.

He said the best thing the government could do was to provide a stable supply of vaccines and supplies to local governments and leave the rest to the people on earth.

(Report by Rocky Swift; edited by William Mallard)

Japanese cities use tsunami lessons for COVID-19 vaccination

Source link Japanese cities use tsunami lessons for COVID-19 vaccination

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