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Photo: Hakan Nural/UnsplashA mock up of a Covid-19 vaccine for illustration purposes only

Here’s the tentative timeline of Japan’s Covid-19 vaccination programme

When we can expect the coronavirus vaccines to be approved and how they’ll be distributed

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Written by
Emma Steen
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With a number of countries making fast progress on rolling out Covid-19 vaccines, the Japanese government is working to follow suit with its sights set on the upcoming Tokyo OlympicsVaccines are now available to people under age 65 and are free for all residents, including foreign residents as long as they are registered within a municipality. 

According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, approximately 32.92 million shots have been administered as of June 21. You can refer to our guide on how to get your Covid-19 vaccine when booking your appointment.

Here’s the projected timeline of how Japan will carry out its vaccination programme. Note that this schedule is subject to change.

End-January 2021: Local clinical trials began for the Moderna vaccine. Pfizer also submitted the data from its clinical trials in Japan at the end of the month. Part of the reason why Japan is taking longer to roll out the vaccines is that it requires more clinical tests than other countries for the vaccine to be deemed safe. 

Early February: On February 5, AstraZeneca applied for fast-track vaccine approval. Japan officially approved the Pfizer vaccine on February 14.

Mid-February: Rollout for Pfizer began on February 17, with the first batch going out to a maximum of 20,000 frontline medical workers. Approximately 3.7 million more medical workers will be up next, where each of the two shots will be administered three weeks apart. 

March: In March, Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo Co. began the production for the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing that the vaccine will be distributed immediately after it is approved by the government. In late March, the authorities have started distributing Pfizer vaccine vouchers to residents age 65 and older.

April: On April 12, Japan began administering vaccines to senior citizens age 65 and older. There are roughly 36 million people making up Japan's elderly population.

May: Japan formally approved the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines for local use on May 21, however, the rollout for AstraZeneca vaccines was paused later the same day. On May 24, Japan opened large-scale vaccination centres in Tokyo and Osaka. 

June: Japan formally began the rollout for people aged under 65 on June 21. NHK reports that athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics may receive vaccines by late June, though the government has said that inoculations will not be a requirement to participate.

July: The government has a goal of inoculating all senior residents by the end of July. In Fukuoka, officials are working to expedite inoculations with a plan to set up 24-hour vaccination centres for the general public, to be operational in July.  

September: According to The Japan Times, vaccine chief Taro Kono says Japan will secure enough vaccines to inoculate all residents aged 16 and older by the end of September.

November: Japan has set a target of completing vaccinations for all willing residents by November. 

Asahi Shimbun reports that as of May 2021, Japan has secured 194 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 50 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 120 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to cover the entire population by the end of this year.

More information on the different types of Covid-19 vaccines is available on the World Health Organization website. 

This article was originally published on January 20 and updated on June 22.

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