Sun, 16 May 2021

WASHINGTON D.C.: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appears to have reached an agreement with U.S. drug manufacturer Pfizer Inc. for the purchase of additional supplies of their COVID-19 vaccine.

Suga sought the purchase in a bid to accelerate Japan's Covid vaccination program, which has fallen behind other nations' inoculation drives.

Suga, who was in Washington for talks with President Joe Biden at the White House, ended his Washington visit on Saturday with a phone call to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Commenting on the call, Taro Kono, the Japanese Cabinet minister tasked with overseeing vaccinations, told Japanese television media that the two sides have "practically reached an agreement" over the purchase of Pfizer vaccines.

Japan is seeking an agreement from Pfizer that would ensure enough vaccines are delivered by September to allow all eligible Japanese to be vaccinated.

Japan earlier signed agreements with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna. However, the Pfizer product is the only vaccine Japan has yet to approve.

Japan's government says it has secured 314 million doses, enough to cover its entire population by the end of this year. That includes 144 million doses from Pfizer.

While Japan began inoculating its population in mid-February, it has only vaccinated fewer than 1 percent of its citizens.

Shipments of vaccines have been hampered due to shortages of supplies.

Officials have said a steady supply of vaccinations will begin arriving in Japan beginning in May.

Japan reported 4,532 new Covid cases on April 17, for a total of 525,218 since the pandemic began. Deaths caused by COVID-19 have reached 9,584.

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