Japanese residents to get COVID-19 vaccines free of charge

October 30, 2020
Japanese residents to get COVID-19 vaccines free of charge

The Japanese government has approved a bill this past week to cover all costs to administer COVID-19 vaccination to all residents in Japan, in line with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge to secure novel coronavirus vaccines for everyone in the country within the first half of next year. The new bill further approves of compensation to suppliers in the event of any serious side effects because of the vaccine.

With a budget of US$6.4 billion, the government has agreed with British drugmaker Astra Zeneca PLC and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. to receive 120 million doses of vaccine from each company when successfully developed; it is also negotiating with US firm Moderna Inc. for 40 million or more additional doses.

Once the vaccines are available, residents will be strongly advised to get vaccinated; with the government offering vaccines with limited effectiveness should the people decide to receive them as well.

The government also endorsed a separate bill enabling it to quarantine those testing positive for the virus beyond February, as a one-off measure introduced in the wake of the pandemic is only effective for a year. (In February, the government decided to hospitalise positive cases and have those who were suspected to have been infected remain at designated facilities for a certain period.)

In other news, the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that less than 10 developers have entered the final stage of clinical trials for their vaccine candidates. However, according to a WHO official, a vaccine for COVID-19 may not be available before the end of 2021.

“A widespread and affordable vaccine would not be available in the market for more than a year,” echoed WHO Western Pacific Region Coordinator Socorro Escalante, citing the target date of COVAX, a WHO-led global scheme for fair distribution of future vaccines against COVID-19.

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