In anticipation of a surge in demand in some municipalities for doctors and nurses eligible to administer COVID-19 vaccines, Japan will enlist the help of dentists for its nationwide inoculation program, which is currently progressing at a very slow pace.

After gaining approval from a panel of experts, the health ministry decided Friday to allow dentists — who are deemed ineligible to give COVID-19 vaccines under the Medical Practitioners’ Law — to administer the shots under some circumstances.

Japan rigidly controls who can administer coronavirus vaccines, contrasting sharply with countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where an array of health care personnel besides doctors and nurses — including dentists, pharmacists, medical students and emergency medical technicians — have been deployed to help staff the inoculation program. In the U.K., even volunteers from all walks of life who have no medical qualifications have been trained to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines.