CM – Japan is tentatively approving two more COVID-19 vaccines: the Asahi Shimbun

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Moderna’s vaccine arrives at Kansai International Airport on May 13th. (Takuya Nishie)

A Japanese health ministry’s drug safety panel on Thursday granted preliminary approval for coronavirus vaccines developed by Moderna and AstraZeneca before expanding the country’s slow vaccination program ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next week.

The only one COVID-19 vaccine, currently approved in Japan for emergency use, is being developed by Pfizer Inc.

Formal approval of the two additional vaccines is expected on Friday by a broader vaccine policy panel.

Minister of Health Norihisa Tamura said approving the additional vaccines will help speed up vaccinations. Japan has given one or more doses of vaccine to approximately 5 million people, or just 4 percent of the population.

With the government pushing to host the Olympics in about two months, speeding up vaccinations is key to addressing growing concerns in the Repel public about the security of the event. Recent polls have shown that more than 80 percent of the Japanese are opposed to hosting the Olympic Games this summer.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to complete the vaccination of the country’s 36 million elderly population by the end of July when the Games should take place. However, a government survey of 1,741 municipalities published last week found that around 15 percent missed the deadline.

On Monday, the government will open mass vaccination stations in two of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, Tokyo and Osaka, by up to 15,000 daily give vaccines to the elderly. Moderna shots must be used at sites.

Japan has received approximately 364 million vaccine doses, including 50 million of the Moderna vaccine through a contract with Takeda Pharmaceutical of Tokyo, 120 million from AstraZeneca and 194 million from Pfizer. All three vaccines require two doses.

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