Health minister Norihisa Tamura said he’s hoping Pfizer Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine will be approved by mid-February under an accelerated process.

Tamura's comments came after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated this week that the government was preparing to start the inoculation program in late February, and added that local governments were readying vaccination centers.

"We need to do it as fast as possible,” Tamura said Friday in an interview in Tokyo. "If all goes well, I would like to see the approval in about mid-February.”