How Japan’s PM bypassed health ministry to secure Pfizer vaccine

How Japan’s PM bypassed health ministry to secure Pfizer vaccine

After direct talks with drugmaker, Suga says first doses will come in February

TOKYO — In mid-December, the Japanese Embassy in Washington received a phone call from the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.

Start negotiating as soon as possible with Pfizer’s U.S. headquarters, was the conveyed message.

The goal was to gain access to the American company’s clinical trial data required for approval in Japan.

The direct call to the overseas mission reflected Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s frustration with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The ministry was in talks with Pfizer’s Japanese unit at the time, but the two sides had yet to ink any sort of contract.

Concerned the ministry would take too long this time, Suga opted to engage in direct negotiations with the U.S. drugmaker.