Japan begins administering COVID-19 vaccine to health workers

Feb 17 , 2021. 1 hour ago – 09:03 KYODO NEWS

A hospital worker (C, L) checks a box containing COVID-19 vaccine in Tokyo on Feb. 16, 2021. (Pool photo)(Kyodo) ==Kyodo

TOKYO – Japan began COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday, starting with an initial group of 40,000 health workers before expanding the rollout to the elderly and people with preexisting conditions.

The first shots were given at a state-run hospital in Tokyo, with vaccinations due to take place at 100 medical facilities across Japan by next week. The country has been relatively slow to launch inoculations against the novel coronavirus, starting its program later than at least 70 other countries.

The start of vaccinations comes with less than six months to go until the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s public support dwindles amid criticism of a sluggish pandemic response.

Of the initial group of health workers, 20,000 will participate in a study to track side effects potentially caused by the vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech SE, and the frequency with which they occur.

They will be asked to keep daily records for seven weeks after taking the first of two shots. The shots will be administered three weeks apart.

The medical facilities have been outfitted with ultracold freezers capable of storing the vaccine at around minus 75 C. Once taken out, doses must be kept refrigerated and used within five days.

A further 3.7 million front-line health workers are to begin being inoculated in March, followed by 36 million people aged 65 or older from April.

People with preexisting conditions such as diabetes or heart disease and those working at elderly care facilities will come next, and then finally the general population.

The medical facilities have been outfitted with ultracold freezers capable of storing the vaccine at around minus 75 C. Once taken out, doses must be kept refrigerated and used within five days.

A further 3.7 million front-line health workers are to begin being inoculated in March, followed by 36 million people aged 65 or older from April.

People with preexisting conditions such as diabetes or heart disease and those working at elderly care facilities will come next, and then finally the general population.

Cr. KYODO NEWS