• Kyodo, Jiji, Reuters

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Japan is considering introducing waiting lists for COVID-19 vaccinations to avoid waste, the minister in charge of inoculation effort has said, as the country prepares to expand the program’s scope.

“We should prioritize not wasting vaccines, rather than sticking to the priority order” of inoculation, when scheduled vaccinations are canceled at the last minute, Taro Kono, who serves concurrently as administrative and regulatory reform minister, told a TV program Sunday evening.

Kono indicated that the central government will call on municipalities tasked with administering shots to come up with waiting list systems.

Last week, Japan launched its initial phase of inoculation for 40,000 health care workers with a vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE.

A further 4.7 million front-line health care workers are to begin receiving shots in March, followed by 36 million people age 65 or older from April. Then, people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or heart disease and those working at elderly care facilities will come next, and finally the general population.

Kono cast doubt on the idea of using COVID-19 vaccine certification for official purposes, including using it as a kind of vaccine passport to permit international travel, saying to do so would discriminate against those who cannot be inoculated against the respiratory disease caused by the virus because of an allergy.

“I can’t imagine utilizing vaccination certificates in Japan,” he said. “The government currently has no plans to do something like that.”

Taro Kono said he believes a system of vaccination certificates will not spread internationally. | POOL / VIA KYODO
Taro Kono said he believes a system of vaccination certificates will not spread internationally. | POOL / VIA KYODO

Kono noted that vaccinations may be effective in preventing the onset and progression of COVID-19 but are not said to prevent the infection itself.

“There is no point in creating a system that would stop people without vaccination certificates from doing certain things,” Kono said, adding that he believes such a system will not spread internationally.

Vaccination certificates are being issued in some overseas countries.

Kono admitted that there is talk about whether Japan should also create a framework to issue vaccination certificates that would be recognized internationally. At the same time, he said there have not been any steps taken in that direction.

“No concrete action is being taken at this time,” Kono said.

As Japan and other nations consider how to stretch scarce vaccine supplies, a recent Israeli study indicated that a single shot of the Pfizer formula may protect against the virus, rather than the standard two doses.

Japan’s chief government spokesman said on Monday that the vaccine’s regulatory approval was based on a two-dose regime.

“I think we need to carefully consider whether we can immediately conclude from this study that one dose is enough or not,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

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