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The Japanese government is ready to approve COVID-19 vaccines, a senior official suggested Wednesday, following news that Britain has approved a vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech.

“If an application for approval (for a COVID-19 vaccine) is filed (in Japan), we’ll approve it after confirming the efficacy and safety,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference.

“We’re waiting for action by (vaccine) developers,” the top government spokesman said. “We’ll keep in touch with the makers.”

The Japanese government has concluded contracts with three U.S. and British drugmakers to secure enough COVID-19 vaccines for 145 million people or more. It plans to allow medical workers and elderly people to get vaccinated first.

Once makers file for approval for potential vaccines, the health ministry is expected swiftly to examine and approve the applications for urgent imports of the vaccines.

Britain is the first advanced economy to approve a vaccine for the novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 respiratory disease.

The British approval is encouraging news for the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which is eager to restart international travel and hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next summer.

The Japanese government aims to prepare COVID-19 vaccines, so that all citizens can receive vaccinations by the end of the first half of next year, ahead of the Tokyo Games, which is slated to kick off in July.

In recent international conferences including a Group of 20 summit, Suga has expressed his government’s resolve to host the Tokyo Games as a token of humanity’s victory over the coronavirus. To realize this, the widespread practical use of COVID-19 vaccines is crucial.

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