Japan began COVID-19 vaccinations on Feb. 17, starting with an initial group of 40,000 health workers before expanding its inoculation program to cover older people and people with preexisting conditions.
The first shots were given at a state-run hospital in Tokyo, with vaccinations due to take place at 100 medical facilities across Japan by the following week. The vaccine was developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech SE.
Japan has been relatively slow to launch its inoculation program, starting it later than at least 70 other countries.
The start of vaccinations comes with less than six months to go until the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s public support dwindles amid criticism of a sluggish pandemic response.
Of the initial group of health workers, 20,000 will participate in a study to track side effects potentially caused by the vaccine, and the frequency with which they occur.
They will be asked to keep daily records for seven weeks after taking the first of two shots. The shots will be administered three weeks apart.
A further 3.7 million front-line health workers are to begin receiving vaccinations in March, followed by 36 million people aged 65 or older from April. (Kyodo)