Japan minister: EU approved first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Japan

FILE PHOTO: Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

TOKYO (Reuters) - The European Union has approved the first shipment of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine to Japan, the minister overseeing Japan’s vaccination programme said on Tuesday, as the country aims to start vaccination by mid-February.

It appears each shipment requires EU approval, said the minister, Taro Kono. He did not say how many doses the first shipment would contain, or when it would be delivered.

“This will enable us to start vaccination of the initial group of medical workers. We will need to fix the schedule for the rest of the medical workers and the elderly as we go forward,” Kono told a regular news conference.

The Japanese government plans to vaccinate medical workers first, then the elderly, followed by people with health conditions and those working at elderly care facilities.

Japan, with a population of 126 million, has signed contracts to procure 314 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca PLC, Moderna Inc and Pfizer, enough for 157 million people.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Gerry Doyle