The Japanese government on Tuesday, October 27, approved a bill that aims to cover all the expenses for the purchase, distribution, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines to all residents in Japan, once the drug is already available, as well as to compensate suppliers in the event any serious side effects occur.
The bill which amends the current vaccination law underscores Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge to secure vaccines for the novel coronavirus for everyone in the country, ideally in the first half of 2021. Suga is aiming for the enactment of the bill during the current Diet session, set to run through December 5.
Gov’t Approves Bill to Offer Free COVID-19 Vaccines to Residents
In line with this, the Japanese government has already set aside a budget of JPY 671 billion for this purpose. The government has agreed with British drug manufacturer AstraZeneca PLC and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. to acquire 120 million doses of vaccines from each company once these are successfully developed. The Japanese government is also negotiating with U.S. firm Moderna Inc. for 40 million or more additional doses, the Japan Times reported.
The government also noted that once it provides vaccines free of charge, residents will be strongly advised to get vaccinated. Moreover, the government may choose to offer vaccines with limited effectiveness and let residents decide whether they want to receive them.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 10 pharmaceutical companies have already entered the final stage of clinical trials for their vaccine candidates.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government has been pushing for locally developed vaccines. However, the drugs being developed by Japanese companies are still in the early stages of clinical studies.
In line with this, the government has also drafted a separate bill that allows it to put those testing positive for the virus beyond February in quarantine, as the one-off measure introduced in the wake of the pandemic has only taken effect for a year.