Japan eyes appointing new vaccine chief to speed up rollout of 3rd shots

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The Japanese government is considering appointing its Economic Revitalisation Minister to double as vaccination chief, in a bid to accelerate its sluggish Covid-19 booster shot rollout, sources close to the matter said Thursday.

The potential new appointment eyed to happen by the end of March, could see Japan’s current Vaccination Minister Noriko Horiuchi replaced amid staunch criticism from opposition parties and the public about the slow rollout of booster shots ostensibly, which has allowed the Omicron variant of the coronavirus to run rampant nationwide.

The potential appointment of Economic Revitalisation Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa to the role is based on his handling of the Covid quasi-state of emergency measures implemented recently, Xinhua news agency reported.

Horiuchi, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) faction led by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, took over the role from Taro Kono as vaccination chief last year, while also doubling as minister for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics held last summer, the latter a role that will become defunct in late March.

If she is replaced by Yamagiwa, she will likely be left without a cabinet position, sources close to the matter said.

Shigeyuki Goto, Minister of Health, Labour, and Welfare, meanwhile, is another candidate being floated for the job of vaccination chief, although some concerns have been expressed about the extra workload this would add to his ministerial duties.

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