Japan will prioritize administering coronavirus vaccines to older people over those with chronic diseases when they become available, as the former face a higher risk of contracting a severe form of the COVID-19 respiratory illness, according to the health ministry.

The government plans to distribute coupons for free vaccinations in order of priority when a vaccine is ready, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said. The policy was decided Monday at a ministry panel meeting involving experts.

According to the ministry, older people are up to several dozen times more likely to develop serious complications from the novel coronavirus compared to healthy adults, while those suffering from heart or chronic lung illness, cerebrovascular disease or kidney failure face risks several times higher.