Health ministry develops vaccine priority plan

Japan's health ministry has decided on a list of pre-existing conditions for prioritizing those receiving coronavirus vaccinations.

The ministry plans to start inoculating medical workers around late February, followed by the elderly in late March, and then people with underlying health conditions.

A panel of experts approved on Friday an inoculation plan submitted by ministry officials.

The plan would give priority to people who are hospitalized or visiting doctors regularly for pre-existing conditions including cancer, chronic heart and respiratory illnesses, kidney diseases, and diabetes.

The underlying conditions also include neurological diseases due to immunity impairment, abnormal chromosomes, serious mental and physical disorders, and sleep apnea.

People with a body-mass index, or BMI, of 30 or more will also receive priority.

The ministry will not give priority to pregnant women at this time due to a lack of data on the safety and efficacy of vaccines for them.

Officials estimate that about 8.2 million people with underlying health conditions will be covered by the priority plan.

The ministry plans to notify municipalities across the country soon to prepare for the inoculations.