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May start planned for Japan general coronavirus vaccinations: gov't source

A medical staff member prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center of the 2nd district of Paris, on Jan. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is making arrangements to begin coronavirus vaccinations for non-priority residents from around May, a source close to the government revealed on Jan. 20.

    The inoculations would follow on from vaccines administered to health care workers, people aged 65 and over, and individuals with underlying conditions. At present, the jabs are expected to be given to everyone aged 16 and over.

    Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced that vaccinations will begin by late February. U.S. pharmaceuticals firm Pfizer Inc. has applied for approval for its vaccine from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and it is expected that it will get authorization in mid-February. Additionally, the government is planning to receive supplies from U.S.-based Moderna and the U.K.'s AstraZeneca.

    Vaccinations for all residents are intended as a way to keep the spread of infections down. People will be able to receive free inoculations. From late February, the around 10,000 medical professionals who directly attend to patients infected with the coronavirus will receive the first jabs.

    Following them will be the about 3 million people working in the country's medical industry, the 30 to 40 million people aged 65 and over, and individuals with underlying conditions. It's envisaged that other residents generally will then begin receiving vaccinations in around May.

    Because clinical trials administered abroad have been targeted at people aged 16 and over, the Japanese government has opted to pursue the same policy, and for the time being individuals aged younger than 16 will not be vaccinated under the plan.

    Prime Minister Suga announced on Jan. 18 that Minister in charge of Administrative Reform Taro Kono will head up the vaccine rollout. At a Jan. 19 press conference, Kono said, "I want to do everything in my power to ensure we are able to administer safe and effective vaccinations as soon as possible." It's thought that with Kono now heading up vaccinations, the construction of a system to get people inoculated will be expedited.

    (Japanese original by Hironori Takechi, Political News Department)

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