Japan’s spending on COVID vaccines and medical care hits $122 billion, could rise

The main entrance to the Ministry of Finance building is visible in Tokyo. (Mainichi/Kiyohiro Akama)

TOKYO — Japan has spent at least 16 trillion yen (about $122.6 billion) on coronavirus-related projects including vaccinations and improved medical care since the country’s first case of the virus was confirmed in January 2020 – and it looks like spending is set to increase.

The finance ministry released a rough breakdown of the 16 trillion yen at an April 13 meeting of the subcommittee of the Tax System Council, an advisory body to the finance minister. Nearly 40%, or 6 trillion yen (about $46 billion), has been used to finance the “emergency block grant” that prefectural governments can use to secure hospital beds and cover emergency measures. infection prevention. Of that amount, 2.2 trillion yen ($16.9 billion) was spent securing the beds, and some 440 billion yen ($3.4 billion) was used to pay bonuses to health professionals. health. By the end of April 2022, 43,200 beds had been secured for COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, a total of 4.7 trillion yen (about $36 billion) has been spent on Japan’s COVID vaccination program, which included procurement and deployment costs for a total of 272 million. doses administered by the country. Of the 4.7 trillion yen, purchasing vaccines from several pharmaceutical companies for first through fourth rounds of vaccines cost 2.4 trillion yen ($18.4 billion), while spending, including including support for medical workers administering vaccines and the cost of securing inoculation sites, totaled 2.3 trillion yen. ($17.6 billion).

Japan has also spent 1.3 trillion yen ($9.9 billion) on oral drugs and intravenous drugs to treat COVID-19, while investing an additional 1.3 trillion yen. to support national vaccine production systems.

The Ministry of Finance maintains that the 16 trillion yen in spending in budgets and reserve funds in fiscal year 2020-2022 covered major projects to strengthen the country’s medical care system. However, the “Emergency Local Revitalization Grant” that local governments can use to boost their economies is also being spent on securing medical care systems.

The Mainichi Shimbun asked several local governments how they used the grant, and prefectures such as Chiba and Okinawa said they had paid medical institutions that accepted COVID-19 patients, using the emergency grant as source of funds that are provided for each accepted patient.

COVID-related expenditure of 16 trillion yen equates to a financial burden of at least 120,000 yen (about $919) per person in Japan. Former Home Affairs Minister Hiroya Masuda, who is deputy chairman of the Council’s tax system subcommittee, said: “The increase in public spending during the initial crisis response cannot be helped, but as we are now in our third year (in the coronavirus crisis), we should start auditing spending in various areas and ask ourselves if the money is not being spent out of habit.”

(Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Department of Lifestyle and Medical News; and Yusuke Matsukura, Department of Business News)