Coronavirus Vaccine

Inoculation of Japan's seniors to be gradual due to limited doses

TOKYO • Japan will receive limited doses of Covid-19 vaccines for the first months of its roll-out and shots for the elderly will be distributed gradually, the country's inoculation chief said.

Pfizer, the maker of Japan's only approved Covid-19 vaccine, is ramping up production in Europe, but those increased supplies are not likely to reach Japan until May, Administrative Reform Minister Taro Kono said on Sunday.

"We would like to start vaccinations for the elderly in April, but unfortunately the number of doses allocated to them will be very limited at first, so we want to start slowly," he said.

Japan has negotiated to receive more than 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines developed by Western drugmakers.

But domestic regulators have approved only one vaccine so far, and the country remains dependent on imported supplies that have been held up by production snags and export controls.

As nations consider how to stretch scarce vaccine supplies, a recent Israeli study indicated that a single shot of the Pfizer formula may be sufficient.

Japan's chief government spokesman said yesterday that the vaccine's regulatory approval was based on a two-dose regime.

"We need to carefully consider whether we can immediately conclude from this study that one dose is enough," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said.

Mr Kono has resisted giving firm timelines for when doses will arrive and be distributed. Even so, the government has stuck to a pledge to secure enough shots for the whole population of 126 million by June.

Japan's inoculation campaign kicked off last week with doctors and nurses getting the first shots. The government is prioritising vaccinations for around 4.7 million medical workers.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2021, with the headline 'Inoculation of Japan's seniors to be gradual due to limited doses'. Subscribe