Almost a year since Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use in the U.S., Japan is still without an approved vaccine developed by domestic pharmaceutical companies.

Now, with daily new cases hovering around 100 nationwide and with nearly 80% of the population having received at least one dose of a vaccine, making it difficult for developers to recruit unvaccinated volunteers for clinical trials at home, the odds of getting a successful vaccine to market appears increasingly difficult.

To give the industry a strong shot in the arm, Japan’s drug regulator has eased requirements for clinical trials, and the government is setting the groundwork for giving a prompt approval of new drugs in times of emergency as long as efficacy is inferred based on similar shots, though rigorous safety checks will remain in place.