The Japanese Ministry of Health announced on Sunday that it has officially approved Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is the first such approval in the country as efforts to contain a third wave of infections are stepped up in the run-up to the Summer Olympics.
The move had been widely anticipated after a government body recommended approval on Friday. At the time, Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said Japan would give its final approval as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said vaccinations will start from the middle of next week, starting with around 10,000 health workers. The government hopes to ensure sufficient supplies for the entire population – around 126 million people – by the middle of the year.
Much of Japan is still in a state of emergency after the third and deadliest virus wave at the end of last year. Cases and deaths have seen a decline in the past few weeks, and Tokyo recorded just under 400 cases in the capital on Sunday.
Japan has so far recorded about 410,000 coronavirus cases and 6,772 deaths nationwide. The Olympic Games begin on July 23.
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