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"2021-05-21

Japan Approves Larger COVID-19 Vaccine Name Due to Expansion of State of Emergency

Japan is expected to extend the state of emergency to Okinawa today, as well as approve COVID-19 vaccines by Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca PLC after health regulators approved their use a day earlier.

Japan began its mass vaccination campaign in mid-February using the Pfizer Inc vaccine, but so far only 3.9% of the population has been vaccinated - the lowest rate among the larger and wealthier countries in the world.

The media reported today that despite pending approval of two additional vaccines, the government is likely to delay the use of the drug from AstraZeneca for now due to concerns about blood clots. Japan has agreed to purchase 120 million doses of vaccine from a British-Swedish drug manufacturer, which should be enough for 60 million people.

Unlike some other G7 countries that are beginning to end lockdowns due to the coronavirus, much of Japan remains under extreme restrictions amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.

On Friday, medical experts approved a government proposal to add the southern prefecture of Okinawa to the state of emergency, which now covers nine prefectures, including Tokyo, which will host the Olympic Games in two months. The state of emergency in Okinawa, which is expected to be formalized today, Friday, will last about a month from Sunday to June 20, said Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, after May 31 for the other nine. This will be the third week in a row that Japan has expanded its areas of emergency.

So far, Japan has recorded an estimated 695,000 coronavirus cases and 12,000 deaths from COVID-19 - far fewer than many countries - but its medical system is increasingly strained by outbreaks of more infectious variants of the virus. With the Olympics starting on July 23rd, Tokyo is under special pressure to reduce infections and the burden on the medical system from its worst fourth tier and emerge from emergency as planned earlier this month.

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