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

The current status of Japan’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout and a projected timeline of what’s to come

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

Despite its slow start, Japan is making fast progress on its Covid-19 vaccine rollout with just over 60 percent of the population having received at least one dose of a vaccine as of September 21, 2021. With a goal of completing inoculations for all willing residents by the end of November, there is even talk of beginning the rollout of third (booster) shots by the end of the year.

Here’s a timeline of Japan’s vaccination programme up to now, as well as the projected schedule for progress in the coming months. 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 rollout the vaccines is that it requires more clinical tests than other countries for the vaccine to be deemed safe.

February: Japan officially approved the Pfizer vaccine on February 14. Rollout for Pfizer began on February 17, with the first batch going out to a maximum of 20,000 frontline medical workers.

March: In March, Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo Co. began production for the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying that the vaccine would be distributed immediately after it was approved by the government. In late March, authorities 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 rollout for people aged under 65 on June 21.

July: Japan began implementing Covid-19 vaccine passports for travellers heading overseas.

September: On September 17, the health ministry announced plans to begin giving booster shots to those who had their second dose at least eight months ago. According to The Japan Times, vaccine minister 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. 

Late 2021: According to Kyodo News, vaccination minister Taro Kono said rollout for a booster shot will open to medical personnel by the end of the year. 

Early 2022: According to Kyodo News, booster shots are expected to become available to the elderly at the beginning of 2022. 

Haven’t received your vaccine yet? You can refer to our guide on how to get your Covid-19 vaccine when booking your appointment.

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 September 21.

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