Agriculture minister Taku Eto on Friday suggested the possibility of expanding the swine fever vaccination program to cover prefectures where the infectious disease hasn’t entered yet.

Six unaffected prefectures have asked the agriculture ministry for vaccinations, which started being carried out in infected prefectures last year.

The six unaffected prefectures are Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Kanagawa in eastern Japan, and Kyoto and Nara in western Japan. The total swine count at farms in the six prefectures stands at 1.5 million.

The ministry has allocated vaccines for 1.3 million pigs to 12 prefectures that have had swine fever outbreaks. It expects to secure vaccines for an additional 2.5 million pigs by the end of the month.

The ministry will consider whether to expand the current vaccination area, which covers mainly central Japan, after consulting experts on the risk of the disease spreading via wild boars.

Local governments covered by the program are required to draw up detailed vaccination plans, including amounts of medicine needed, and obtain ministry approval before starting vaccinations.

“I understand the worries well” in prefectures next to those with confirmed swine fever cases, Eto told a news conference, sounding positive about vaccinating pigs in unaffected prefectures.

The ministry has limited the vaccination areas to places where outbreaks have occurred, in order not to affect exports of pigs produced elsewhere.

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