Tokyo (Reuters) – The head of Japan’s vaccine program returned on Friday to ensure a sufficiently targeted supply of COVID-19 vaccines by June, a month before the planned start of the Tokyo Olympics.
Taro Kono, Japan̵
“We are currently preparing to start vaccination at the end of February,” Kono said. “We would like to provide information on what will happen next when things get tough.”
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to have enough photos of the Japanese population by mid-2021. But production and distribution problems are hampering the spread of vaccines around the world, and Japan is already lagging behind major economies at the start of its inoculation campaign.
Kono said the Pfizer vaccine would be used for the first photos, starting with 10,000 medical workers in 100 hospitals. The next priority after health workers was to vaccinate the elderly, those with health problems and workers in care for the elderly.
Japan has made deals to buy 144 million doses, enough to inoculate 72 million people with Pfizer. It has also provided 50 million doses from Moderna Inc and 120 million from AstraZeneca Plc. In total, this would be more than enough for Japan’s population of 126 million.
Japan requires internal testing for vaccines before granting regulatory approval. Pfizer’s is expected to be approved next month, while Moderna launches its first internal process on Thursday. AstraZeneca has made an experiment in Japan but has not yet applied for approval.
Report by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Rocky Swift; Edited by Anna Nicolachi da Costa