TOKYO () – Jan receives only limited doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the first months of inoculation, and shots to the elderly are gradually distributed, the country’s vaccination chief said.
Pfizer Inc, the maker of Jan’s only proven COVID-19 vaccine, is increasing production in Europe, but these increased supplies are unlikely to reach Jan until May, administrative reform minister Taro Kono warned on Sunday in an interview with the national television station NHK.
“We would like to start vaccinations for the elderly during the year, but unfortunately the number of doses assigned to them will initially be very limited, so we will start slowly,” Kono said.
Jan has negotiated to receive more than 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Western drug manufacturers. But domestic regulators have so far proved only one vaccine, and the nation remains dependent on imported supplies that have been stopped by production snags and export controls.
Since Kono, the minister of administrative reform, was sent last month to head Jan’s vaccination button, he has resisted giving fixed timelines for when the doses arrive and are distributed. Still, the government has kept its promise to secure enough shots for the entire population of 126 million in June.
Jan has negotiated to receive 144 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine this year, and its second shipment of approx. 450,000 shots arrived Sunday.
The inoculation campaign started last week, with doctors and nurses getting the first shots. The government prioritizes vaccinations for about 4.7 million medical workers, approx. 1 million more than originally estimated.