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If things go to plan, the first coronavirus jabs could be in Japanese medical workers’ arms in about a week. Logistics sorted? Check: The government has selected three major parcel delivery companies to transport Pfizer’s literally supercool vaccine across the country.

Syringes? Er, that could be more of a problem. Health minister Norihisa Tamura said Tuesday that Japan is unlikely to inoculate as many people with Pfizer’s vaccine as planned due to a shortage of special syringes capable of extracting the final dose from vials provided by the drugmaker.

The government said last month it had secured doses for 72 million people based on the assumption that each vial could provide six shots. But without what are called low dead space syringes, which squeeze out every last drop of vaccine, a vial ends up yielding only five doses — enough for just 60 million people.

Message from Taro Kono, minister in charge of novel coronavirus vaccinations, about the effects and efficacy of the vaccines (in Japanese)  | PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE
Message from Taro Kono, minister in charge of novel coronavirus vaccinations, about the effects and efficacy of the vaccines (in Japanese) | PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE

The belated vaccine rollout was scrutinized in the Diet on Monday, reports Satoshi Sugiyama, with PM Yoshihide Suga defending the need for separate drug trials on Japanese humans. “Differences among races are expected regarding the vaccines, so there need to be certain clinical trials targeting Japanese people and not just a reliance solely on clinical trial data from the U.S. and Europe,” he said.

The Diet is supposed to be debating the budget, but the opposition’s focus has been squarely on heaping pressure on Suga on issues ranging from a potential scandal involving his son to Mori’s remarks, Sugiyama reports. And while Suga stumbles, the man tasked with organizing the vaccine rollout, Taro Kono, is looking more and more like a can-do politician who could possibly even challenge Suga in a leadership vote come September — although seven months is a very long time in politics.

Tuesday’s (and last Tuesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (40 or over): Tokyo 412 (556), Saitama 173 (247), Osaka 155 (211), Kanagawa 142 (187), Chiba 98 (222), Aichi 84 (101), Fukuoka 71 (77), Hyogo 68 (135), Hokkaido 41 (105), Ibaraki 40 (29). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

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