Photo/Illutration Japan will receive 144 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. (Provided by Pfizer Inc.)

Japan has signed a contract with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. for about 144 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year, enough to inoculate 72 million people, health minister Norihisa Tamura said Jan. 20.

The Japanese government plans to start administering the vaccine, co-manufactured with German biocommerce company BioNTech, on medical workers by late February.

The ministry struck a basic agreement with Pfizer in July 2020 for enough doses to inoculate 60 million people by the end of June. The formal contract extends that period and provides Japan with more doses.

Tamura told reporters the government hopes Pfizer will provide “as many (doses) as possible by the end of the first half of this year.”

The Japanese government also signed formal contracts with two other companies--Moderna Inc. in October and AstraZeneca in December--for their COVID-19 vaccines.