Japan will secure enough COVID-19 vaccines for all residents age 16 or older by the end of September, vaccine chief Taro Kono said Sunday, as Pfizer has accepted Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s request to supply additional doses of the shots.
“They have agreed on the essentials of the matter,” Kono said during a live interview on Fuji TV, adding that further details including the shipment schedule will be discussed later.
Kono did not specify the number of extra doses sought from Pfizer, but said Japan would secure enough supply by the end of September to inoculate all people over 16 years old.
Suga made the request during telephone talks with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Saturday, the last day of his three-day visit to Washington, where he met with U.S. President Joe Biden.
Kono said Pfizer is expected to file a request to expand the use of its vaccine to adolescents aged 12 to 15, having submitted a similar request in the United States. The government will take this into account in rolling out vaccinations, he said.
Japan is seeing a surge of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, which top health experts say is a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The request for more doses also comes as Japan trails far behind Britain, the United States and other nations in the global vaccine rollout.
Japan relies solely on imported coronavirus vaccines, and Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one the country has approved so far.
Japan only began inoculating its population of 36 million age 65 or older on Monday after beginning its campaign with health care workers on Feb. 17. A total of 6,674 older people had received their first shots by Thursday.
Out of the nation’s 4.8 million health care workers, about 1.17 million had received at least one dose as of Thursday, according to data from the Prime Minister’s Office, while nearly nearly 680,000 had received second doses.
Given a recent spike in the number of new infections, the government has decided to expand tougher COVID-19 restrictions. The measures will from Monday cover the country’s three biggest metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya and comes less than a month after a state of emergency was fully lifted.
During the summit on Friday, Suga and Biden agreed to work together to help ensure fair access to coronavirus vaccines for developing countries and facilitate the production of safe, effective, and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region, including by expanding manufacturing capacity in India.
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