Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko received Covid-19 vaccinations earlier this week. Aged 87 and 86 respectfully, they are two of six imperial family members who received the vaccine.
Princess Nobuko, Princess Hisako and Prince Hitachi and his wife, Princess Hanako, also got their jabs. Seven Imperial Family members are eligible, but 97-year-old Princess Yuriko has yet to be inoculated.
Japan began vaccinated its elderly population, totaling 36 million, in mid-April. As of now, half a million have their shots and the government plans for their second shots to be done around July. The Imperial Household Agency stated it will work with local government and the health ministry to get vaccines, “We will follow the government’s policy and conduct vaccinations for them based on their wishes.”
Japan has been slow to rollout and is currently in the grips of a fourth wave of Covid-19 spread. With the Olympics approximately 50 days away, the Centers for Disease Control have issued a travel warning against traveling to Japan, “Travelers should avoid all travel to Japan, because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19.”
Though they have had the Pfizer vaccine since February, only 4% of the population is fully vaccinated. This is the slowest vaccination rate among the world’s wealthiest nations. One reason for the slow rollout is because Japan insisted on domestic trials of the vaccine. This coupled with vaccine mistrust has caused delays. Japan has approved the Moderna vaccine and the AstraZenca jab is pending, but both will also go through domestic trials.
As of now, the hospital system in Japan is under great strain and nine prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, have declared a state of emergency. Hospitals are running out of ventilators and ICU beds. Osaka officials and the Tokyo Medical Practitioners’ Association have asked Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to cancel the Olympic Games. Already delayed by a year, Japanese officials appear intent on holding the games. Even though athletes are not required to be vaccinated. Adding to the medical professionals’ worries, none of the athletes, coaches, staffs or media are required to adhere to the two-week self-quarantine rule that applies to anyone entering Japan.