Japan has formally approved its first Covid-19 vaccine with the health ministry giving the go-ahead to use the vaccine co-developed and supplied by Pfizer Inc.
Authorities said on Sunday its store of coronavirus vaccines had not been affected by an earthquake which struck the northeast of the country the previous evening, damaging buildings and temporarily cutting power in several areas.
Speaking at a conference in Tokyo Chief Cabinet Secretary, Katsunobu Kato, said the quake had not affected the vaccine storage.
“We have contacted Pfizer and had a confirmation that the location where they have kept the vaccines have not been affected by the power outage,” he said.
The announcement to approve the vaccine comes after a government panel on Friday confirmed that final results of clinical testing done in Japan showed that the vaccine had an efficacy similar to what overseas tests showed.
Many countries began vaccinating their citizens late last year, and Pfizer’s vaccine has been used elsewhere since December.
Under the current plan, about 20,000 front-line medical workers at hospitals in Japan will get their first shots beginning around Wednesday.
About 3.7 million other medical workers will be next, followed by elderly people, who are expected to get their shots in April. By June, it’s expected that all others will be eligible.
Vaccines are considered key to holding the delayed Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Japan is expected to receive 144 million doses from Pfizer, 120 million from AstraZeneca and about 50 million from Moderna before the end of this year, enough to cover its population.