TOKYO - The Japanese government will consider allowing dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines, its top spokesman said Monday, amid concerns there will be a dearth of doctors and nurses once the rollout hits full tilt.
"We will consider what is necessary to ensure the Japanese people can get vaccinated quickly and safely," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato replied when asked at a press conference about media reports that such a decision could be finalized this month.
Since Japan launched its vaccination program in mid-February, around 1.2 million health-care workers have received at least 1 dose of Pfizer Inc.'s 2-shot vaccine, the only 1 approved by the country's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare so far.
A further 13,000 people aged 65 or older have taken the first dose, according to government data.
That adds up to less than 1 percent of the country's population of 126 million, roughly 110 million of whom are eligible being aged 16 or older.
Supply shortage has been the main reason for the slow rollout, with Japan trailing far behind countries such as Britain and the United States.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday he expects to procure enough doses for all those eligible by the end of September through additional shipments from Pfizer after phone talks with the US pharmaceutical giant's CEO, Albert Bourla.
Japan also has supply deals with Britain's AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc. of the United States but their vaccines are pending approval by the health ministry.