Japan's vaccine program chief denies reports of May rollout

Japan Times -- Jan 21
The chief of Japan's COVID-19 vaccination program on Wednesday denied media reports that vaccinations for the general public may start in May, as the country battles a third wave that has brought record numbers of infections and serious cases.

Media, including public broadcaster NHK, cited an anonymous source close to the government as saying vaccinations could reach the public as soon as May.

“Oh no, NHK, please don’t go around making vaccination rollout schedules like that. It’s bogus,” administrative reform minister Taro Kono, who was selected to spearhead the vaccine rollout this week, said on Twitter.

The daily Yomiuri said the government was aiming to inoculate most of the population by July, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics scheduled to start on July 23.

The government has said it would prioritize medical workers, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions in its vaccine program expected to start by the end of February but has not provided a timeline beyond that.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a daily news briefing the “timeline for vaccination for the broader population would be decided after the vaccine is approved”.

The timing of the campaign is of particular interest given that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said vaccines are key to a safe Olympics.

- Japan Times