Japan approves bill to offer all residents free COVID-19 vaccines

Japan Times -- Oct 28
The government on Tuesday approved a bill to pay all costs to administer COVID-19 vaccination to all residents in Japan, and to compensate suppliers in the event any serious side effects occur.

The bill to amend the current vaccination law is in line with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge to secure novel coronavirus vaccines for everyone in the country in the first half of next year. His government is aiming for its enactment during the current Diet session, set to run through Dec. 5.

To that end, the government has earmarked a budget of ¥671.4 billion. It has agreed with British drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. to receive 120 million doses of vaccine from each company when successfully developed, and is negotiating with U.S. firm Moderna Inc. for 40 million or more additional doses.

Once the government provides vaccines free of charge, residents will be strongly advised to get vaccinated. The government may choose to offer vaccines with limited effectiveness and let people decide whether they want to receive them.

According to the World Health Organization, 10 developers have entered the final stage of clinical trials for their vaccine candidates.

Serious side effects were reported in some of the trials, causing studies to be temporarily halted. A WHO official recently said a vaccine for COVID-19 may not be available before the end of 2021.

- Japan Times