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Cablegate: Japan Releases Updated Pandemic Action Plan

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PP RUEHAST RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHTM
DE RUEHKO #3465 3540819
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190819Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9616
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6923
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 1111
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA PRIORITY 4403
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RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY 9496
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 3911
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE PRIORITY 5345
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO PRIORITY 2120
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3454
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS TOKYO 003465

SENSITIVE
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DEPT FOR AIAG AMBASSADOR LANGE AND PAT PATTERSON
DEPT FOR EAP/J AND OES/IHA
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DEPT PASS TO AID/GH/HIDN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFLU TBIO KSTH ECON PREL SOCI CASC JA
SUBJECT: JAPAN RELEASES UPDATED PANDEMIC ACTION PLAN

REF: 08 TOKYO 1214

Sensitive but Unclassified. Please Handle Appropriately.

1. (SBU) The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW)
released a draft of the GOJ's updated action plan for
pandemic influenza November 28. The revised action plan,
according to MHLW officials, incorporates recommendations by
the ruling coalition's project team in the Diet on pandemic
influenza as well as recent changes to Japan's law on
infectious disease control (ref). Key revisions include a
pandemic severity scale with five broad categories,
simplified from the WHO's present scale of six pandemic
stages with two levels per stage. Health Ministry officials
said the new scale is more useful for Japan and that WHO too
is considering a simplified severity index. The new plan
also includes a recommendation to increase Japan's anti-viral
stockpile to cover 45 percent of the population, up from the
current 25 percent target. Officials did not specify, but
said new technical data prompted the upward revision of the
target. The MHLW is seeking public comment on the proposal
and expects the GOJ to adopt an updated action plan in
January 2009.

2. (SBU) Although the new action plan focuses on achieving
GOJ goals of limiting the domestic spread of a pandemic and
minimizing its effects on the economy and society, MHLW
officials played down recent media reports the GOJ is now
shifting emphasis away from measures to contain a pandemic at
Japan's borders. They argue GOJ pandemic planning has long
been based on the fundamental idea that a pandemic cannot be
fully contained. They add the updated measures to limit the
spread of the disease were developed after specific changes
to the infectious disease law and as a result of project team
recommendations. Officials also report MHLW recently hired
media experts and health professionals as part of a new group
to develop and promote pandemic countermeasures.

3. (SBU) Acknowledging little change to policy on vaccine
development and allocation, MHLW officials said any new
recommendations are likely to come after March 2009 when the
GOJ should have the initial results of clinical studies on
6,000 frontline workers inoculated with pre-pandemic vaccine.
The GOJ hopes to explore cell-based vaccine production
beginning in 2009 and, MHLW officials note, would welcome
cooperation with the U.S. on developing cell-based techniques.

4. (SBU) On Japan's medical capacity, MHLW officials
pointed out Japan has 593 hospitals with 11,231 beds
designated for patients with diseases such as tuberculosis
(TB), SARS, and severe influenza. Given the low rates of TB
in Japan, 60 percent of these hospital beds could be
available to treat patients in a pandemic, according to
officials. Note: Separately, local government officials and
medical professionals involved in health emergency planning
have raised concerns about Japan's hospital capacity in a
pandemic. While the Japanese health system generally gets
high marks, the recent case of a pregnant woman who died
after being turned away from several Tokyo hospitals has
exposed some weak links in Japan's capacity to handle
patients requiring specialized treatment. End Note.
ZUMWALT

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