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Japan Vaccine Approval Expected

A panel in Japan has given the OK for the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, Bloomberg reports.

It adds that this greenlight from the Ministry of Health's advisory Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council could enable the vaccine to be approved as early as Sunday. If that happens, Bloomberg notes this would be Japan's first SARS-CoV-2 vaccine approval.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said, according to Bloomberg, that vaccinations would begin the middle of next week. Japan has a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech for 144 million vaccine doses, as well as agreements with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for their vaccine and Moderna for its vaccine, it adds. 

The Japan Times reports that the vaccine will first be given to 20,000 healthcare workers who will be monitored, then to additional healthcare workers in March and people over the age of 65 in April. According to NPR, Japan plans to have vaccinated most of its population by July, when the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin. NPR says, though, that Japan's vaccination effort may be stymied by a shortage of the type of syringe that's needed to get six doses out of each vial, rather than five.