Japan PM Suga receives 1st shot of COVID-19 vaccine

Kyodo News

Posted at Mar 16 2021 11:32 AM | Updated as of Mar 16 2021 01:51 PM

Japan PM Suga receives 1st shot of COVID-19 vaccine 1
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2021. Kyodo/Reuters

TOKYO (UPDATE) - Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga received his first dose of Pfizer Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccine at a Tokyo hospital on Tuesday, getting the shot in front of cameras to reassure the Japanese public about its safety.

Suga is being vaccinated as part of preparations to visit the United States next month, when he will become the first world leader to meet in person with President Joe Biden.

The initial focus of Japan's vaccine rollout has been health-care workers, with the rest of its population waiting their turn.

Before the Biden summit was set, Suga, who is 72, had said he would wait until people aged 65 or older become eligible in mid-April. He is slated to get the second dose in 3 weeks, before departing for Washington.

By receiving the shot in front of cameras, Suga took a cue from other world leaders who have used it as an opportunity to build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, including Biden, 78, who did so in December before taking office.

Public skepticism toward vaccinations could hamper Japan's vaccine rollout, with only 63.1 percent of respondents in a Kyodo News poll conducted last month saying they want to be inoculated and 27.4 percent saying they do not.

Suga has pledged to secure enough COVID-19 vaccines for Japan's population of 126 million within the first half of this year, though the effort has been held up by production delays and the European Union's export controls, as well as difficulty in procuring low dead space syringes that can extract more doses per vial.

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