Column  Finance and the Social Security System  2021.07.19

【Aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan】No.319:Shortage of infectious disease specialists in Japan

In this column series, Yukihiro Matsuyama, Research Director at CIGS introduces the latest information about aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan with data of international comparison

Health Care Policy

Although the number of COVID-19 patients in Japan is less than one-tenth of those in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, Japan expects the healthcare system to collapse with each new wave of COVID-19 infections (see Column No.316). As such, many clinics and private hospitals refuse to see patients with fever or perform PCR tests. One of the reasons why the Japanese healthcare delivery system is particularly vulnerable to the pandemic is that there is an absolute shortage of infectious disease specialists.

The Japanese Association for Infectious Disease reported that at least 3,000 infectious disease specialists had to be secured, although there were only 1,352 specialists in 2017 (see Column No.21). As of June 2021, this number has only risen to 1,613 (excluding nine specialists that were working overseas), which is only about half of the target. As shown in Table 1, the number of infectious disease specialists per 100,000 people is 1.3; in the Yamanashi Prefecture, there is only one specialist despite a population of 810,427. The target of 3,000 is the required number of infectious disease specialists in the absence of a pandemic. Considering that it will take time for COVID-19 to die out, and that we can expect a similar pandemic to occur in future, it is of critical importance to train more people to become specialists in this field.

Table 1 Number of infectious disease specialists by prefecture


Source: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
The Japanese Association for Infectious disease.