The amount of COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. biotechnology firm Moderna Inc. and supplied to Japan totaled 13.7 million doses as of the end of June — falling far short of the 40 million doses under Japan’s initial plan — Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, has said.
Kono attributed the slower supply to growing demand for the Moderna vaccine around the world, but brushed off supply concerns.
“The Japanese government has secured a necessary amount (of the vaccine),” the minister stressed at a news conference Tuesday.
Japan has signed a contract with Moderna to receive a total of 50 million doses by the end of September, though 40 million had been expected to be delivered by the end of last month.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a separate news conference that there has been no change in the contract, indicating that the remaining 36.3 million doses will be imported by the end of September.
Kato attributed the delay in shipments to the fact that the vaccine was not approved in Japan until late May.
Meanwhile, Kono said at a lecture held the same day that the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to people in Japan had surpassed 50 million.
In the lecture organized by the Jiji Press-affiliated Research Institute of Japan, Kono said it is “possible” to achieve the government’s target of finishing vaccinations by October-November for all people who hope to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
“Enough vaccines will come in by the end of September,” the minister said.
The goal of completing vaccinations for people age 65 or over by the end of this month is also likely to be achieved, he added.
Kono praised municipal governments across Japan for their vaccination operations, saying that their underlying strength is “very high.”
Referring to relatively low vaccination rates among young people in other countries, Kono called on those in Japan to receive COVID-19 vaccines to avoid being infected and escape severe symptoms or permanent effects even if they are infected.
The vaccine czar cited the opinion of “many experts” that the effects of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to last at least around one year.
At the event, Kono, dodged a question as to whether he would back Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s possible bid for re-election as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with Suga’s current term as LDP leader to expire in late September.
“I’ll make a decision as a minister,” Kono said.
Following Sunday’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, in which the LDP won 33 seats, the second fewest ever for the party, Kono said the LDP must send a strong message ahead of the next House of Representatives election, due to be held by this autumn.
Kono also used the lecture to highlight the significance of government digitalization, which the Suga administration has prioritized.
With a new agency for digitalization set to be launched in September, “we should conduct necessary regulatory reform in advance to allow the new agency to make a smooth start,” said Kono, who also serves as minister for regulatory reform.
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