Tokyo, Feb 14 (efe-epa).- Japan on Sunday formally approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for domestic use, marking an important step to immunize most of its people in the run-up to the Summer Olympics that begin on July 23 in Tokyo.
The immunization drive will start on Wednesday as the government targets to inoculate its entire population of 126 million by the beginning of July.
The Health Ministry said the government gave a formal nod to the use of the American pharmaceutical giant’s jab after recommendations from a panel last week.
The fast-track approval is a critical step in controlling the third wave of the virus outbreak as the country struggles with a surge of infections with less than six months to go before the Games begin.
Japan received the first shipment of 400,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer last Friday.
The first to receive the vaccine will be a group of 20,000 doctors and nurses who have volunteered to participate in an assessment study to track the potential side effects of the jab.
About 3.7 million frontline health workers will receive the vaccine doses in March. Some 36 million people aged 65 and above will be inoculated soon after.
Japan has suffered the third wave of the virus in the winter months and currently maintains a health alert. Still, Japan has registered fewer infections compared to other large economies.
The government imposed the state of emergency in Tokyo and 10 of the 47 prefectures, including Osaka, Aichi, and Fukuoka, on Jan.7. It later extended the measure until March in many of the areas.
The state of emergency does not mean total lockdown but the government has restricted people from unnecessary outings while restaurants and bars are closed early under the state of emergency.
Businesses are encouraged to adopt remote working while the government has also capped the attendance at large events.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is facing mounting criticism for dragging his feet too long before declared an emergency in Tokyo and the other affected regions.
The country has so far registered about 414,000 infections and almost 7,000 deaths since the pandemic began. EFE-EPA