Japan expressed concern Tuesday after the European Union recently tightened its export controls of coronavirus vaccines produced within the bloc, with a Cabinet minister indicating the move could affect the schedule for inoculations in the country.

"Supply in Japan cannot be confirmed (due to the controls)," said Taro Kono, administrative reform minister who leads the domestic vaccination efforts, in a press conference.

Japanese administrative reform minister Taro Kono speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on Feb. 2, 2021. (Kyodo)

Kono also said he has heard that the supply of vaccines manufactured in the European Union has fallen significantly short of its initial plan.

"We want to request prompt export of the amount that has already been contracted," he said.

Japan is hoping to begin vaccinating people by late February, with medical workers first in line, using the vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE.

The doses produced by Pfizer within the European Union are now subject to the stricter export controls, introduced Friday and effective through March.

Under the rules, any pharmaceutical company seeking to export coronavirus vaccines produced within the bloc needs to first notify national authorities and obtain approval. The measure came amid the 27-member body's efforts to secure enough vaccines in the region.

On Monday, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi urged Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president of the European Commission, in a videoconference to make sure that EU exports of vaccines to Japan will not be affected by the new controls.

Dombrovskis said the European Union understands Japan's concerns and will make maximum efforts to ensure exports run smoothly to Japan, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Japan has agreed to secure 144 million doses from Pfizer, 120 million from AstraZeneca Plc. of Britain, and 50 million from U.S. firm Moderna Inc., the health ministry has said.

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