Japan approves two new vaccines prior to emergency expansion


Tokyo (AP) — Japan approved the use of two new vaccines (Moderna and AstraZeneca) on Friday, hours before the spread of the coronavirus emergency, which covers about 40% of the population. Nine weeks before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, this is the latest effort to curb the surge in infectious diseases.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said the two new vaccines will help speed up vaccination. Japan uses Pfizer Shot, which was approved in February, to vaccinate about 5 million people, or just 4% of the population, at least once.

Rapid vaccine deployment is seen as the key to Japan’s ability to contain the worsening spread of the coronavirus. More than half of the approximately 12,000 COVID-19 deaths in Japan have occurred since February. The number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition reached a record high this week.

There is no compulsory blockade, but a state of emergency allows cities to require stores and public facilities to close or reduce business hours. It expanded from hotspots in Osaka and Tokyo in late April to other areas earlier this month.

On Friday, the government plans to add Okinawa Prefecture, the southern archipelago that houses most of the US troops stationed in Japan. Over 40% of Japan’s population will be in a state of emergency starting this weekend.

As the government promotes the Olympic Games in about two months, virus containment is essential to avoid growing public concern about the safety of the event. A recent poll found that more than 80% of the Japanese were against hosting the Summer Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has promised to finish vaccination of about 36 million elderly people by the end of July, when the tournament will be held. However, a government survey of 1,741 municipalities released last week found that about 15% missed the deadline.

Following local vaccinations in cities and towns across the country, the government opened mass vaccination sites in two metropolitan areas, Tokyo and Osaka, on Monday to vaccinate up to 15,000 elderly people per day. The goal is to do. .. The site uses Moderna shots.

Japan has secured approximately 364 million vaccinations, including 50 million Moderna vaccines, 120 million AstraZeneca and 194 million Pfizer, under a contract with Tokyo-based Takeda Pharmaceutical. I am. All three vaccines need to be given twice.

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The Associated Press writer, Mari Yamaguchi, contributed to this report.

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