Coronavirus: Japan says COVID-19 vaccine priority should be for people 65 and older

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A Japanese health ministry panel said on Friday that people aged 65 or older should get priority for vaccination against COVID-19 as the government sets guidelines that will also prioritize frontline healthcare workers and those with medical conditions.

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The panel also specified chronic heart disease, chronic respiratory disease and chronic kidney disease, among others, as underlying conditions that should determine priority for the vaccine.

The recommendations would include 36 million elderly people and 8.2 million people with medical conditions in the first group to receive vaccine shots.

Another government panel this week recommended that priority be given to frontline medical professionals and workers at elderly care facilities, while the elderly and those with underlying health conditions should also receive priority.

Japan, with a population of 126 million, has agreements to buy 290 million vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc, or enough for 145 million people.

Japan is currently facing a third wave of coronavirus infections, putting the nation's medical system under heavy strain.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will hold a news conference on Friday about the government response to the pandemic.

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