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Japan approves Moderna & AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines

Published on 21/05/21 at 09:34am

A Japanese government panel has approved Moderna and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines for use in adults, bringing the total number of approved jabs in the country up to three.

With just two months until the start of the planned Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan has been reporting around 5,500 new cases a day, so the approval of the Moderna and AstraZeneca jabs comes at a crucial time for the country.

Japan is in the midst of a fourth wave of the virus, with nine regions including Tokyo already under a virus state of emergency, with the measure now being expanded to Okinawa in the south.

There is growing disquiet in the country as Japan is among the slowest countries in the world to vaccinate its people, with just 4.1% of the population having received a first dose. The slow pace of vaccination has been exacerbated in Japan due to strict regulation that only permits doctors and nurses to administer jabs.

Japan’s health minister, Norihisa Tamura, said the Moderna shots would be used at mass inoculation sites scheduled to open on Monday in Tokyo and Osaka, which will be staffed mainly by military doctors and nurses.

The government has not said when the AstraZeneca vaccine would be deployed. NHK, the public broadcaster, reported that despite the green light from the government, the use of AstraZeneca might be delayed over concerns that it could be linked to very rare cases of blood clotting.

So far, only medical workers and the over-65s are eligible for vaccination, with no timeframe being disclosed on a wider vaccine rollout.

However, International Olympic Committee chief, Thomas Bach, said this week that at least three-quarters of athletes and team members staying at Tokyo's Olympic village will be vaccinated before the Games, which open on July 23.

Organisers insist the event can be held safely this summer, despite public protests being held throughout Japan opposing the games amid safety concerns.

Kat Jenkins

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