Asia speeds ahead in the vaccination race

Asia speeds ahead in the vaccination race 4

After a relatively slow start, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia have now surpassed the US in vaccination rates per 100 people, something that would have been unthinkable earlier this year.

In South Korea, officials say vaccines have helped most people avoid the risk of hospitalization.

In Japan, the number of severe cases halved last month, to more than 1,000 cases a day.

`It’s almost like a race between the hare and the tortoise,` said Jerome Kim, general director of the International Vaccine Institute, a nonprofit organization in Seoul that specializes in vaccine research for developing countries.

Medical staff administering the Covid-19 vaccine at the Pachinko game store in Osaka, Japan last month.

Asia still faces the risks of the epidemic, while most countries in the region cannot produce their own vaccines and may face supply problems.

Unlike the US, vaccines have never been a very divisive issue in Asia-Pacific.

Reuben Ng, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and has frequently researched global vaccine hesitancy over the past decade, said people in Asia have largely positive views.

In South Korea, when officials opened a vaccination campaign for people aged 50 and older, about 10 million people simultaneously visited the government website to register.

People in poorer countries in the region also find they have no better option than vaccination to escape prolonged blockades.

Arisman, 35 years old, a motorbike taxi driver in Jakarta, Indonesia, shared that he received the second Sinovac vaccine shot in July, because his job often requires him to come into contact with many people.

`If I’m sick, I can’t make money,` Arisman said.

As the US and Europe rushed to vaccinate their populations late last year, many Asian countries enjoyed leisure time amid the pandemic.

Then, the Delta variant appeared and quickly spread.

After Sydney had to blockade in June related to an unvaccinated driver infected with Delta, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has said vaccination is not a race, in July called on Australians to speed up vaccination.

Prime Minister Morrison also sought to fix the domestic vaccine supply.

When the Delta strain emerged, less than 25% of Australians over the age of 16 had received at least one shot.

`We have great community leadership, with people across the political spectrum supporting the vaccination campaign. That’s really helping us push back against vaccine hesitancy,` said Greg Dore,

Many other governments use incentives to encourage vaccination.

Asia speeds ahead in the vaccination race

Medical staff went door to door to vaccinate Covid-19 in Sabak Bernam, Malaysia in July. Photo: AP.

Researchers in these countries also study the problems of people who refuse vaccination and try to persuade them to change their views.

When vaccines can be ordered, many countries are also racing to establish the necessary infrastructure for mass vaccination, to compensate for the slow start.

The Japanese government has mobilized the military to vaccinate sites in Tokyo and Osaka, and has allowed companies to proactively vaccinate employees.

With more than 70% of the population receiving at least one dose, Japan’s vaccination rate has surpassed that of the United States, which recently reached nearly 64%.

`Normally, people will be hesitant and not very enthusiastic about vaccines,` said Takashi Nakano, professor of infectious diseases at Kawasaki Medical School.

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