Pfizer Begins COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments to Japan, Obtains Special Approval for Domestic Use

TOKYO – Japan’s health care professionals will be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech, after the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) approved its use on Sunday.

“We are very pleased to receive the special approval at an unprecedented speed. We will continue to collect information on the safety and efficacy of this drug in clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance for proper use,” Taro Ishibashi, President of Pfizer R&D Japan, said in a statement.

Pfizer Inc. filed for manufacturing and marketing approval of the vaccine to the MHLW last Dec. 18.

Last Friday, the drugmaker began shipping boxes with about 400,000 doses of the vaccine to the country, which must be kept at minus 75 degrees Celsius, Kyodo News reported.

An All Nippon Airways flight carrying the jabs from Brussels, where the vaccines were manufactured, touched down at the Narita International Airport near Tokyo.

The MHLW has signed a final agreement with Pfizer Inc. to receive approximately 144 million doses of the drugmaker’s COVID-19 vaccine sufficient for 72 million people this year.

Inoculations will begin on Wednesday for health care professionals, to be followed by people aged 65 and older, then by those with underlying health conditions and those working at elderly care facilities, and lastly, the general population. - Florenda Corpuz

(Photos courtesy of Pfizer Japan Inc.)