Politically weakened by criticism over his coronavirus response, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is pinning his hopes of remaining in power on the successful rollout of vaccines across Japan.

Suga has put vaccines front and center in his messaging to the public over the past month, calling them the "decisive factor" for bringing the pandemic under control and appointing Taro Kono, the outspoken and popular reform minister, as his vaccine czar.

According to government officials, the prime minister repeatedly pushed the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in recent weeks to speed up the process to begin administering the vaccine developed by drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE.