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In a country where workplaces play a disproportionate role in people’s lives, Japan is betting that recruiting its biggest companies to roll out Covid-19 vaccines will fuel a much-scrutinized vaccination campaign.

Still grappling with a deployment that only vaccinated 11% of the population, the Japanese government allows its biggest brands and employers as Toyota Motor Corp., SoftBank Group Corp., and Nomura Holdings Inc. will administer injections to its own employees at its office premises starting Monday.

Using Moderna Inc.’s messenger RNA, the effort is currently expected to cover approximately onetenth of the country’s 126 million people and hopefully accelerate what is still one of the slowest immunization programs in developed countries, although its pace has picked up markedly since May.

The program co-opts the previous ones reviews like Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten Group Inc. – who called government vaccination operations “complicated and cumbersome” – and will likely help ease vaccine hesitation among the younger population. Peer pressure is high in Japanese workplaces, where some are still employed for life in the same company.

Confidence in her employer was a factor for Yuki Oba, 42, who works for the internet conglomerate GMO Payment Gateway Inc. Oba said she is concerned about her allergies and plans to get the shot in a doctor’s office when available, but has decided that she felt comfortable getting the jab to work.

“He feels like most of my colleagues have already made an appointment, ”she said. “Now most of the working talk is about ‘When are you going to get the vaccine? “”

As places like the United States debate whether workplaces can require employee return vaccinations, and others like Hong Kong lobby private companies to help increase immunization, Japan’s workplace campaign is a natural evolution for a culture in which companies play an employee role. Although notorious for the unhealthy number of hours workers have to devote, Japanese companies also offer social safety nets to their employees, such as annual health checks and sometimes housing assistance.


The addition of workplace vaccinations is expected to help Japan meet its goal of one million vaccines per day by the end of June, the country’s vaccine czar Taro Kono told reporters last week. Universities will also be part of the mix. So far, the government has received 3,479 applications for the program, with doses set to cover 13.7 million people.

A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site at Haneda airport.

Photographer: Akio Kon / Bloomberg

The workplace program met with a swift and enthusiastic response from Japan Inc., many of whose executives openly complained about the speed of deployment and its impact on businesses. The effort could also help vaccinate more young Japanese people, who officials feared would be less likely to receive the vaccine because they are less likely to show severe symptoms if infected with the virus.

Bitter vaccine story means hurdles for Japan Covid Combat

Days after the announcement of the workplace gunfire on June 1, executives from some of Japan’s best-known companies were on TV showing large event spaces suitable for vaccination and offering staff details. medical secure to give shots. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son took Kono on a tour of one of his vaccination sites, a WeWork office a short walk from Tokyo’s Roppongi district. Airlines such as ANA Holdings Inc. got a head start and started vaccinating its employees last week.

“Companies want to actively contribute to reviving economic activity, and in Japan, that means encouraging the vaccination of our employees,” said Masato Ikeda, senior director of SoftBank Corp. who oversees part of the vaccination effort. SoftBank Group plans to immunize more than 250,000 workers, their families and people living near its offices at 15 sites in Japan with a total capacity of 10,000 injections per day.

Japan’s vaccination campaign has been weighed down by a conservative medical culture and bureaucratic wrangling, which workplace vaccination will help improve. Currently, enough vaccines have been given to cover 11% of the population, compared to about half in the US and UK, according to Bloomberg vaccine tracker.

In Japan, “people are used to their employers offering medical examinations and providing health care through their employers – vaccines would be an extension of that,” said Annamarie Sasagawa, former director of culture. business of a consumer goods company. Kao Corp. and doctoral student at the University of Tokyo whose research has focused on the globalization of Japanese companies.

All Nippon Airways begins inoculation in the workplace

An All Nippon Airways employee receives a dose of the coronavirus vaccine on June 13.

Photographer: Akio Kon / Bloomberg

Some say workplace deployment needs to go even faster and cover more people: the initial program is limited to large companies with over 1,000 employees, leaving out the small and medium-sized businesses that employ the bulk of the workforce. the Japanese workforce.

A few companies have banded together to demand shots at the government. Investment firm Coral Capital has secured a vaccination site, doctors and enough interest among workers at its holding companies to apply for doses for 1,800 people, said James Riney, founding partner of the company . As other funds and their companies joined in, the number quickly grew to 25,000. “A large part of the startup ecosystem in Japan will be able to get vaccinated thanks to our efforts.” did he declare.

Expanded access to vaccinations through work could also be a mood booster for the country’s younger generations, said Kohei Onozaki, professor of health policy at the School of Public Health at St. Luke International University in Tokyo. “From what I hear, there is a lot of frustration among working age people not being able to get vaccinated. “

– With the help of Shoko Oda and Takahiko Hyuga

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