Japan to offer free COVID-19 vaccinations to all citizens

TOKYO (XINHUA) – The Japanese Health Ministry’s advisory body yesterday approved a policy to provide all members of the public in Japan with a free dose of vaccine against COVID-19 in a move aimed at tackling the spread of the virus.

Amid ongoing uncertainty as to how many doses of a vaccine may need to be administered for it to be effective, the policy refers to, at this stage, the initial dose for the Japanese public.

According to an official from the ministry, it has yet to be officially decided whether foreign residents in Japan will be covered by the policy, despite the vast majority of foreign residents in gainful employment pay for the National Health Insurance the same way as the Japanese.

The ministry official added, however, that from his personal viewpoint, foreigners should be eligible for the vaccine in the interests of public health.

The government has said that by the first half of 2021 it hopes to have secured enough vaccines from a budget of JPY671.4 billion (USD6.4 billion) to secure and administer enough vaccines to all members of the public.

It has agreed with British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to receive 120 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed with the University of Oxford.

Similarly, Japan has agreed with Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE to receive 120 million doses of their potential vaccine, providing its development proves successful.

Japan is also negotiating with United States (US) firm Moderna Inc for at least 40 million doses of its vaccine candidate.

People cross a street in Tokyo’s Akihabara area. PHOTO: AFP