TOKYO, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Japan received its third batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, with the shipment containing up to 526,500 doses of the vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical firm and its German partner BioNTech landing at Narita airport near Tokyo from Belgium.
So far, Japan has received half of the 2.66 million doses it expects to receive in March as its vaccination campaign expands to include more health care workers.
From this week, the government plans to begin inoculating 4.7 million health care workers countrywide followed by 36 million people aged 65 and older who are next in line to be vaccinated from April 12.
Those with preexisting health conditions and workers at elderly care facilities will be vaccinated thereafter before the inoculation drive for the general population begins, the government has said.
According to Japan's minister in charge of the vaccine rollout Taro Kono, the government is planning to have the requisite number of doses delivered to inoculate all health care workers and elderly citizens by the end of June.
Japan will be allowed to transport and store the vaccine at regular freezer temperatures for up to two weeks, according to Pfizer, so as to distribute the vaccine more widely among medical facilities, including those that do not have the ultra-cold freezers that were initially required to store the vaccine at temperatures between minus 80 and minus 60 degrees Celsius.
Japan has procured enough doses of vaccines for its population of 126 million people, with the government inking deals with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, although Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Monday a clinical study has begun in Japan for U.S. company Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine.
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require recipients to receive two doses, Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine is the first vaccine approved in the United States that requires a single dose.
On Feb. 17, Japan launched the first phase of its vaccination program for 40,000 medical workers at 100 hospitals nationwide.