• Jiji, Kyodo

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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to ask Pfizer Inc. to move up the schedule of its supply of COVID-19 vaccine to the country, government sources said Thursday.

Suga is likely to make the request when he holds talks in person with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in Tokyo as early as Friday, the sources said.

The request is aimed at addressing vaccine shortages that have forced some municipalities to suspend vaccination appointments.

The meeting will also be joined by administrative reform minister Taro Kono, who is in charge of the country’s vaccination campaign.

The government has a contract in place to receive 194 million vaccine doses from the U.S. pharmaceutical giant this year.

Japan imported 100 million of them by the end of June. The country is scheduled to receive 70 million doses between July and September and 24 million doses between October and December.

In April, Suga successfully asked Bourla by phone to increase the amount of Pfizer vaccine being provided to Japan. The request led to an agreement for an additional 50 million doses.

About 23% of Japan’s population had been fully inoculated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with about 35% having received at least one shot.

The government is reluctant to call for more supply than already agreed upon, as many poorer countries are much further behind in their vaccination efforts.

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