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Japan's govt endorses bill to offer free COVID-19 vaccines

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-10-28 09:32
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Small bottles labelled with "Vaccine" stickers stand near a medical syringe in front of displayed "Coronavirus COVID-19" words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - The Japanese government endorsed a bill on Tuesday to make novel coronavirus vaccinations free to all residents here.

The bill will also compensate the suppliers of the vaccines should serious side effects be caused and free health care will be offered to recipients of the vaccine should they experience any adverse effects.

The bill seeks to amend the current vaccination law and comes on the heels of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in his first policy speech in parliament since taking office last month delivered a day earlier saying that the government will make sure that it secures enough vaccines for all people in Japan.

Once their safety has been confirmed pending clinical trials and regulatory approval, Suga said the government aims to secure enough vaccines for all people in Japan in the first half of next year.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition is aiming to pass legislation to secure the coronavirus vaccines by the end of the current Diet session on Dec 5 and has allocated a budget of 671.4 billion yen ($6.4 billion) to achieve this.

Agreements between the Japanese government and British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc. have been made, as well as with US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Inc.

In both cases, Japan has agreed to receive 120 million doses of the vaccine from each company provided they are successfully developed.

Japan is also in talks with US firm Moderna Inc. to secure at least 40 million vaccines.

The bill urges the public to make concerted efforts to get vaccinated and local municipalities will offer the inoculations with the costs being fully covered by the central government.

While the Japanese government has been hoping that pharmaceutical firms here will be able to develop a homegrown vaccine, so far local drugmakers involved in COVID-19 vaccine developments are only in the early stages of clinical trials.

The government also endorsed a separated bill on Tuesday to revise the quarantine laws so that the isolation measures for people who test positive for the virus upon entry into Japan can be continued after February next year.

This bill is also planned to be passed during the current Diet session.

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