TOKYO (JAPAN) – A government health panel on Friday night approved Japan’s first COVID-19 vaccine, made by Pfizer Inc, state media reported. About 400,000 doses arrived at Narita International Airport, near Tokyo, on Friday aboard a flight from Brussels.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that vaccinations will begin from the middle of next week, starting with some 10,000 health workers. Formal approval of the vaccine, batches of which arrived in Japan on Friday morning, will be given on Sunday by Japanese Health Minister Norihisa Tamura.
There had been concern that the European Union could block exports of the shots, prompting Japan’s vaccine chief to warn against growing nationalism over supplies.
The European Commission, the EU executive, said on Thursday it had so far approved all requests for the export of COVID-19 vaccines, including to Japan, after setting up a mechanism to monitor vaccine flows on Jan. 30.
Japan has arranged to buy 144 million doses of the vaccine made by the US drugmaker and German partner BioNTech.It also has deals for vaccines developed by AstraZeneca Plc, Moderna Inc and Novavax Inc. So far, only Pfizer and AstraZeneca have submitted applications for approval.
Japan has so far recorded about 410,000 coronavirus cases and 6,772 deaths. The Olympic Games are due to start July 23.