COVID-19 vaccinations for residents of Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures age 65 or over began Monday at the Osaka mass vaccination site operated by the Self-Defense Forces, a move that brought the number of prefectures covered by SDF-run vaccination venues to seven. The addition of the two prefectures neighboring Osaka Prefecture expanded the combined scope of people eligible for inoculations at the venue and another SDF-run site in Tokyo to the maximum level initially planned. Bookings for shots can be made through the Defense Ministry homepage or the Line messaging app. Reservations for the two weeks from June 14 were able to be made from around 11 a.m. The sites initially only allowed bookings for the upcoming week, but the reservation period was expanded to two weeks to urge people to get appointments as swiftly as possible before many start to receive their second jabs from June 28.
Japan's vaccine rollout is set to start in less than two weeks. But with the rollout in other countries, including the U.S., not going as smoothly as authorities would have wanted, there are worries that it could be chaotic for Japan, too. The rollout in Japan is the last among the Group of Seven nations, with the health ministry set to formally approve U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc.'s mRNA vaccine, developed jointly with Germany's BioNTech SE, on Feb. 15. The start of vaccinations for medical professionals will follow two days later, local reports say. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's administration aims to secure enough vaccines to cover all residents by the end of June.
Tickets for COVID-19 vaccinations will be sent to people aged 65 or older in Japan from mid-March, according to the health ministry's vaccination schedule. The ministry presented the schedule at a briefing session for local governments on Monday. According to the ministry, the vaccination tickets will be sent to about 36 million older residents, who are third priority for vaccinations, after the first group of 10,000 to 20,000 medical workers and the second of 3.7 million other medical workers. Municipal governments, which will manage vaccination programs, are preparing to send the tickets, with a view to starting vaccinations as soon as late March. In Japan, work to approve U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc.'s vaccine is under way.
A total of 28 prefectures and large cities in Japan are either planning or considering setting up large-scale coronavirus vaccination sites to expedite the inoculations of older people, according to a Kyodo News survey. About 90% of those local governments will use the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. of the United States and approved by the health ministry on Friday. Miyagi, Gunma, and Aichi prefectures will open their venues on Monday, followed by the city of Kobe on Tuesday, according to the survey conducted on 47 prefectural and 20 municipal governments from Tuesday to Friday. The central government will begin vaccinations at state-run mass vaccination sites in Tokyo and Osaka on Monday as it aims to complete the vaccinations of older people by the end of July. Japan's vaccination program lags behind other developed countries.
U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc.'s mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 has become the first to be formally approved for use in Japan, paving the way for inoculations to start from Wednesday, but significant challenges still lie ahead for local governments that must set up the necessary logistics for a smooth vaccine rollout. Pfizer's novel coronavirus vaccine got the final OK for emergency use from the health ministry on Sunday, two days after a government committee gave the shot its seal of approval. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the vaccine rollout would begin Wednesday with front-line health care workers. "We will do all we can to deliver safe and effective vaccines to the people as soon as possible," he told the Lower House Budget Committee on Monday. Vaccine approvals usually take a year or two, but the government shortened the review period to less than two months -- scrapping the requirement for third-phase clinical trials within the nation as the toll of the pandemic mounted.