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First COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Japan from Pfizer

Christian Fernsby |
The first batch of some 400,000 doses of Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Japan on Friday, with official approval for the shots expected within days as the country races to control a third wave of infections ahead of the Olympic Games.

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Topics: JAPAN    PFIZER   

A government health panel is due to deliberate on the vaccine later on Friday, when it is expected to green-light the shots for formal approval. Kyodo News reported that approval would come on Sunday.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said vaccinations would begin from the middle of next week, starting with health workers, and the government hopes to have secured enough supplies for the whole populace by mid-year.

The roughly 20,000 doctors and nurses from 100 hospitals across the country are set to participate in a study aiming to track potential symptoms and the frequency with which the symptoms occur, regardless of whether the vaccine is the cause.

Media sent news alerts on the arrival of the first batch of vaccines at Narita international airport, amid concerns about supply due to questions over the European Union's willingness to allow COVID-19 vaccines to leave its territory.

The European Commission said on Thursday it has so far approved all requests for the export of COVID-19 vaccines, including to Japan, since it set up a mechanism to monitor vaccine flows on Jan 30.

Pfizer applied for Japanese approval in December for its COVID-19 vaccine, which is already being administered in the United States, Singapore and other parts of the world.

The Japanese government has arranged to buy 144 million doses, or enough to inoculate 72 million people, of the vaccine made by the U.S. drugmaker and German partner BioNTech. It also has deals for vaccines being developed by AstraZeneca Plc, Moderna Inc, and Novavax Inc.

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