Speaking at a regular press conference, Minister Kono said it seems that every shipment of vaccine needs to be approved by the EU. However, he did not disclose the specific number of doses of the vaccine shipped to Japan. Mr. Kono also said that it will soon start vaccinating the first group of health care workers, followed by the elderly, people with health problems and nursing facility staff.
Japan has signed contracts to buy 314 million doses of vaccine from AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer, enough to vaccinate 126 million people. However, compared to many other major economies, Japan is considered to be slower in vaccination work. This is partly because Japan depends on foreign vaccine makers, while it requires testing in Japan for all potential vaccines.
Last December, Pfizer filed an application with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to obtain a marketing authorization for its vaccine, and by the end of January, the company submitted data on clinical trial results. Additional screening was conducted in Japan for 160 people. Most recently, on February 5, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC (UK) has applied for a license for the COVID-19 vaccine to be used in Japan.
However, under the new rules, pharmaceutical companies wishing to export vaccines produced in EU member states have an obligation to report to local authorities for export permits. EU countries have the right to refuse licensing if the vaccine manufacturer fails to comply with the existing vaccine supply contracts with the EU.