JAPAN ENACTS LAW MAKING COVID VACCINES FREE FOR RESIDENTS
Japan's parliament enacted a law to cover the costs for residents to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, as hopes grow for the early arrival of vaccines following recent reports of progress amid a resurgence of infections, Mainichi Shimbun reported.
The House of Councillors unanimously passed a bill to revise the current vaccination law after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to secure coronavirus vaccines for all the roughly 126 million residents of the country in the first half of next year. Japan has agreed with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., American firm Moderna Inc. and Britain's AstraZeneca Plc to receive sufficient vaccines for 145 million people when they are successfully developed, earmarking a budget of 671.4 billion yen ($6.4 billion) for that purpose.
In the accelerating global race to develop vaccines to tackle the pandemic, Pfizer and its German development partner BioNTech SE have recently applied for approval in the European Union (EU) after doing so in the United States and Britain.
The revised law does not clarify whether the scheme will include foreign residents of Japan, but health ministry officials have said they expect them to be covered based on other vaccinations offered for free. The government needs to collect information on the efficacy and safety of vaccines under development as some of them employ artificial genes and other technologies that have yet to be used outside of a laboratory setting.