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Hong Kong — In the race to vaccinate citizens against Covid-19, Japan should be a front-runner. It has nearly universal health-care coverage and pharmaceutical prowess, not to mention a pending national election, a large elderly population and the looming Olympics to motivate political leaders to move fast.

Yet it has the dubious distinction of being among the worst performers regarding inoculations. Japan has given enough doses to cover just 1.1% of its population, the lowest among the 37 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. That compares with 36% in the US and nearly 35% in the UK...

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