Japanese gov’t may offer free COVID-19 vaccines to all residents

An antibody test for the new coronavirus is demonstrated in Tokyo on June 1, 2020. Japan started a program to test 10,000 people for new coronavirus antibodies to better understand its spread.  PHOTO: Kyodo

TOKYO — The Japanese government may offer COVID-19 vaccinations for free to all residents so that the number of future fatalities and those developing severe symptoms and needing hospitalization can be mitigated, sources with knowledge of the matter said Wednesday.

According to the sources, owing to the highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 and its potential to render patients with extremely severe symptoms, the government wants the highest number of people as possible to get vaccinated.

At a meeting convened last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the government aims to have secured by the first half of 2021 enough COVID-19 vaccinations for all of the country’s citizens, as part of its new measures and protocols to combat COVID-19 here.

The vaccines will be purchased from reserve funds from the budget of the current fiscal year to March 2021, the government said.

Earlier this month, the Japanese government said it had agreed with British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc. to receive 120 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed with the University of Oxford. —  Kyodo

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