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The government has chosen Yamato Holdings Co. and two other major parcel delivery companies to transport U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine in Japan, sources said Monday.

The other two are Seino Holdings Co., the parent of Seino Transportation Co., based in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, and DHL International GmbH of Germany.

The government plans to start COVID-19 vaccinations as early as Feb. 17. Medical workers will be the first to get the vaccine in the country.

Yamato Holdings, Seino Holdings and DHL will deliver the Pfizer vaccine from the refrigerated warehouses secured by the government to regional vaccination hubs managed by municipalities. The three will be also in charge of related logistics management.

In Japan, the Pfizer vaccine will be transported by land in principle except in areas where air transportation is needed, such Hokkaido and Okinawa.

The vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. A parcel containing the vaccine and cooling materials is expected to weigh slightly over 10 kilograms.

Yamato Holdings has already tested low-temperature transportation with reagents. Seino Holdings has its strength in regional transportation services, while DHL plays a key role in the coronavirus vaccine distribution in the United States and Europe.

The health, industry and transport ministries involved in Japan’s vaccination program hope to deliver the Pfizer vaccine to municipalities nationwide smoothly by making use of the strengths of the three companies, sources said.

The government has signed a deal with Pfizer to receive 144 million doses of its vaccine, enough to inoculate 72 million people, this year.

The first batch is expected to arrive at Narita International Airport, near Tokyo, as early as Sunday on an All Nippon Airways flight from Brussels.

Upon approval by the health ministry as early as the following day, the inoculation program will begin at some 100 hospitals for 10,000-20,000 medical workers.

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