Tokyo’s vaccine tsar blames rigid jab-approval processes for Japan’s lagging Covid-19 inoculation program

Japan’s minister for the Covid-19 vaccination program has said he accepts responsibility for the country’s limited progress, but also criticized regulatory procedures, saying the rules for approving new vaccines needs to change.

Speaking on Wednesday in an interview with TBS television, Taro Kono said that, with a mere 2.9% of the population inoculated against Covid-19, any discontent should be focused on him. 

However, Kono said that the approval process for new vaccines was also at fault. “Even though we are in a state of crisis, we’re still using the same rules to approve vaccines that we do under normal times,” he stated.

“In the wake of this Covid-19 situation, the administration needs to change.”

From early on in the pandemic, Tokyo said it would not expedite regulatory processes to make vaccines available sooner. Resultantly, Pfizer’s well-used jab was given regulatory approval two months later in Japan than in the US and the UK. 

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A medical worker fills a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine, at Tokyo Medical Center in Tokyo, Japan (FILE PHOTO) © Behrouz Mehri/Pool via REUTERS
Japan’s booking platform for Covid vaccine appointment crashes as Tokyo struggles to kick-start inoculation program

The country’s vaccination program has also been beset by supply challenges and on Wednesday morning, the booking platform for Covid-19 shots crashed for several hours. 

Kono’s comments come as Tokyo looks to increase the pace of inoculations with the government needing to administer around one million shots a day if it is to achieve its target of vaccinating most of its 36 million people over the age of 65 by the end of July.

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