UPDATE 1 – Japan’s anger on social media over the appearance of vaccine priorities for Olympic athletes

(Reshaped, government comment added, details)

TOKYO, April 8 (Reuters) – Japan is considering prioritizing COVID-19 vaccines for Olympic athletes, Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday, sparking outrage on social media as the country’s inoculation drive lags far behind other major economies.

So far, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, and only one million people have received the first dose since February of 126 million people in Japan. Vaccinations for the elderly should not start until next week.

This is happening in the background of the jump in new cases ahead of the Olympic Games, which should start in July.

According to government officials, quoted by Kyodo late Wednesday, Japan has begun considering ensuring that all of its Olympic and Paralympic athletes are vaccinated by the end of June.

The report sparked outrage on social media, even as Cabinet Secretary-General Katsunobu Kato assured that they do not currently plan to give preference to athletes.

“Give it to my mother first,” a Twitter user wrote.

“All athletes are young and healthy.”

Many people have noticed that the original vaccination plan gives priority to health workers, the elderly and those with chronic diseases, and ordinary citizens are unlikely to get theirs before the summer.

“This is really strange. Since we have no idea whether even all seniors will get vaccinated by mid-June, will you have all the athletes? “user with lunch” Aoiumi2 “posted on Twitter.

Although the government has said it will continue with the Olympics as planned from July 23, the vast majority of Japanese want the Games canceled or postponed again.

Numerous test events for some sports have recently been canceled or postponed due to concerns about the pandemic, and on Tuesday, leading business director Hiroshi Mikitani wrote on Twitter that holding the Games was “risky”.

“Honestly, I feel that the Olympic Games this summer are too risky. I am against them, ”wrote Mikitani, executive director of the Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten Inc. (Report by Elaine Lies; Edited by Himani Sarkar)