TOKYO: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has agreed to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s request to supply additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine minister of Japan said on Sunday (Apr 18).
“They have agreed on the essentials of the matter,” vaccine tzar Taro Kono said during a live interview on Fuji TV, adding that further details including the shipment schedule will be discussed.
Kono did not specify the number of extra doses sought from Pfizer, but said Japan would secure enough supply by the end of September to inoculate all people over 16. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only one approved in Japan.
Suga made the request during a telephone call with Bourla on Saturday, the last day of a three-day visit to Washington.
Japan is seeing a surge of new coronavirus cases in recent weeks, which top health experts say is a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inoculations of Japan’s sizable elderly population began on Monday, but some experts cautioned that the general population may not have access to vaccination until late summer or even winter because of constrained supplies.
Japan was among the last major economies to begin COVID-19 inoculations when it started in mid-February, after domestic trials to ensure safety.
Only 0.9 per cent of the Japanese public had received their first vaccine shot as of Friday, compared with 2.5 per cent in South Korea, and 48 per cent in the United Kingdom.