Japan expressed concern Tuesday after the European Union recently tightened its export controls on coronavirus vaccines produced within the bloc, with a Cabinet minister indicating the move could affect the schedule for inoculations in the country.
“Supply in Japan cannot be confirmed (due to the controls),” said Taro Kono, administrative reform minister who is also in charge of vaccine rollout in Japan.
Kono told a news conference he has heard that the supply of vaccines manufactured in the EU has fallen significantly short of its initial plan.
“We want to request prompt export of the amount that has already been contracted,” he said.
Japan is hoping to begin vaccinations by late February, with medical workers first in line, using the shot developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE.
The doses produced by Pfizer within the EU are now subject to the stricter export controls, introduced Friday and effective through March.
Under the rules, any pharmaceutical company seeking to export coronavirus vaccines produced within the bloc needs to first notify national authorities and obtain approval. The measure came amid the 27-member body’s efforts to secure enough vaccines in the region.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi urged Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president of the European Commission, in a videoconference to make sure that EU exports of vaccines to Japan will not be affected by the new controls.
Dombrovskis said the EU understands Japan’s concerns and will make maximum efforts to ensure exports run smoothly to Japan, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Japan has agreed to secure 144 million doses from Pfizer, 120 million from AstraZeneca PLC of Britain and 50 million from U.S. firm Moderna Inc., the health ministry has said.
The health ministry said Monday it is considering offering group vaccinations to people age under 65 at their workplaces, in addition to vaccinations carried out by municipalities.
The government’s vaccine rollout plan puts medical workers first, followed by people age 65 or older, those with underlying conditions and then the general public.
Kono has said vaccinations for older people will not begin before April, while exact timing for vaccinations for the general public has not been announced.
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