Initiative comes with a massive price tag for Japanese government.

With medical researchers still in the process of developing a coronavirus vaccine, it’s looking increasingly likely that one won’t become available until next year. But while the questions of “When?” and “How?” we’ll eventually be able to immunize ourselves against the worst pandemic in a generation remain unresolved, people in Japan at least have an answer to the question of “How much?”

Multiple news organizations within Japan, including national broadcaster NHK, report that the Japanese government has internally reached a decision to provide the coronavirus vaccine, once one becomes available, to everyone in the country free of charge. The total cost for the initiative is estimated to be some 670 billion yen (US$6.32 billion), all of which will be covered by the federal government, with no out-of-pocket costs to individual residents.

The government-connected anonymous sources say the decision to provide the vaccine free of charge was made to encourage people to become inoculated as soon as possible once a vaccine is developed and cleared for use, rather than hem and haw over the cost of the procedure. With the current hope that a vaccine will be ready sometime in the first half of 2021, a speedy nationwide immunization would also benefit organizers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics, which are currently scheduled to open in July of next year, following a one-year delay due to the pandemic, though this factor hasn’t been specifically mentioned in regards to the free vaccine program.

A formal announcement from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is expected in the next few days.

Sources: NHK, Jiji via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko, TBS
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
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