TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga received his first shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday, as he prepares for an April visit to the U.S. to meet President Joe Biden.
Suga and about 90 delegates scheduled to visit Washington will take two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. Their second jab is expected in about three weeks.
"It's not as harmful as it looked," said Suga after receiving the vaccination. "[The vaccines are] expected to prevent infections or severe symptoms, and are very important for measures against infectious diseases," he said.
Suga's comments follow similar public displays by other political leaders to convince people about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesia President Joko Widodo were vaccinated in January.
Japan's vaccination rollout started in February for health care workers and is expected to reach the elderly in April.
Suga, 72, said he felt "more compelled for the need to deliver the vaccines to more citizens as soon as possible."
The Tokyo metropolitan area remains in a state of emergency since January. Despite the deadline set for this weekend for lifting restrictions, the number of daily confirmed cases in the capital is again rising. In the past week, the average number of daily new cases in Tokyo was 287, compared with 253 the previous week.
"It will take a bit more time" to decide whether to extend the state of emergency, Suga said.