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Japan to offer Covid-19 vaccine for free

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The coronavirus vaccine will be available for free to all Japanese citizens, a government health agency announced on Friday.

Japanese citizens will receive at least the first dose of the vaccine for free as the government seeks to contain wider contagion risks and cap the rate of serious and fatal cases, Japanese news agency Kyodo reports.

Japanese officials said that it remained to be confirmed whether foreign residents in Japan would also benefit from the policy, a health ministry official said including them could only be beneficial for public health.

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The country has been racing to secure enough doses of the vaccine from developers AstraZeneca and Pfizer, as their respective clinical trials progress into the final stages.

Some $6 billion have been earmarked for purchasing the vaccines and the government has agreed to take over companies’ responsibility for the liability costs for any potential side effects.

The news comes after the country’s new prime minister Yoshihide Suga, who rose to the premiership after Shinzo Abe’s resignation, said Japan was “determined” to host the 2021 Olympics, saying he would “spare no effort” in ensuring the global competition went down safely.

They also follow recent statements from the president of the International Olympic Committee that the games, originall set to take place in 2020, could take place as planned even without a coronavirus vaccine.

Despite its relative proximity and close links to China, where the pandemic first originated, Japan has recorded just over 80,000 coronavirus cases and fewer than 2,000 deaths.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times