• Kyodo

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Members of the public in Japan will be given a dose of vaccine against the novel coronavirus for free, according to a health ministry policy approved Friday by its advisory panel, in a bid to curb serious and fatal cases of infection.

The policy addresses the first dose for everyone amid uncertainty at this stage over how many times a vaccine would need to be administered.

Whether the policy will cover foreign residents in Japan has yet to be officially determined, a ministry official said, while offering his personal opinion that it would be natural to include them for the sake of public health.

The government is trying to secure enough vaccines by the first half of 2021 to administer to all members of the public, having earmarked a budget of ¥671.4 billion ($6.4 billion).

It has agreed with British drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. to receive 120 million doses of vaccine from each company when successfully developed, and is also negotiating with U.S. firm Moderna Inc. for 40 million doses or more.

In case a vaccination causes serious side effects, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to have the state, not companies, redress patients and pay damages through a law revision at an extraordinary Diet session expected to start later this month, it said.

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