Japan's program to vaccinate those age 65 or above against the novel coronavirus is expected to begin in earnest later than had been planned.

The vaccinations are now seen starting on a trial basis in April and reaching full swing in May, when many vaccine shipments are set to arrive in Japan.

The government plans to release a new schedule for the delivery of vaccines to local governments within this week.

On Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives that the government was making preparations so that COVID-19 vaccinations for older people could start in April.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato expressed caution, saying that attention would need to be paid to the vaccine supply situation.

Japan began its COVID-19 vaccination program last Wednesday, administering shots of vaccine made by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. to medical workers. Those age 65 or above are next in line to be vaccinated.

Taro Kono, the minister overseeing the program, said on television Sunday that vaccinations for older people would be be delayed because Pfizer could not increase its production capacity at least until May, and the government has found that an additional 1 million medical workers need to be vaccinated.

Currently, the government officially expects to start vaccinating those age 65 or above in April and finish the inoculations for the age group in roughly two months and three weeks.

But the rollout will be delayed by about two weeks as ramping up inoculations is unlikely to be possible before May at the earliest, according to a government source.

Regarding people with underlying conditions, who are next in line after those age 65 or above, health minister Norihisa Tamura told the Budget Committee meeting that doctors would confirm whether they have such conditions based on self-certification using prevaccination forms.

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