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US falling to lowest vaccination rates of world's wealthiest democracies

Between July 24 and Sept. 9, the full vaccination rate in the US grew by around 4%, while in the same period Japan lifted its level by 25%, a jump that doubled the size of its fully vaccinated population.

September 13, 2021 / 02:17 PM IST
For the moment, the United States retains a slightly larger percentage of fully vaccinated people than Japan, 52.76% compared with 50.04%, according to Our World in Data (Representative image)

For the moment, the United States retains a slightly larger percentage of fully vaccinated people than Japan, 52.76% compared with 50.04%, according to Our World in Data (Representative image)

Japan initially struggled to get its COVID-19 vaccination program into full gear, but now that it has, the percentage of its population that has received at least one dose has edged past the level achieved in the United States — leaving Americans last for that category among the world’s seven wealthiest large democracies.

The turning point came Thursday, when Our World in Data, a project by the University of Oxford in England, reported that 62.16% of Japanese people were at least partially vaccinated, compared with 61.94% of Americans.

For the moment, the United States retains a slightly larger percentage of fully vaccinated people than Japan, 52.76% compared with 50.04%, according to Our World in Data, ranking sixth out of the leading industrial nations, after Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy. But the United States appears all but certain to fall to last place among the Group of 7 nations shortly, given the rapid pace of achieving full vaccinations in Japan and the extremely slow rate in the United States.

Between July 24 and Sept. 9, the full vaccination rate in the United States grew by around 4%, while in the same period Japan lifted its level by 25%, a jump that doubled the size of its fully vaccinated population. Using doses made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, Japan is administering more than 1 million vaccine doses per day, some 300,000 above the U.S. average, even though the U.S. population is more than 2.6 times the size of Japan’s.

In Japan, new cases have fallen sharply from a peak of 23,083 on Aug. 25 to 11,347 on Friday, though Japan did confront a dramatic rise in new cases in July and August, coinciding with the Olympics. In the United States, cases spiked starting in early July.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Canada leads the G-7 countries in vaccination rates, with almost three-quarters of its population at least partially vaccinated as of Thursday, according to Our World in Data. France, Italy and Britain follow, with percentages between 70 and 73. Germany’s rate is just ahead of Japan’s, at around 65%.

The U.S. vaccination curve has leveled dramatically since an initial surge in the first half of this year, when the vaccine first became widely available. In a push to vaccinate the roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for shots but have not gotten them, President Joe Biden on Thursday mandated that two-thirds of American workers, including health care workers and the vast majority of federal employees, be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

By Alyssa Lukpat

c.2021 The New York Times Company
New York Times
first published: Sep 13, 2021 02:17 pm

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