Japan OKs Pfizer COVID-19 oral pills amid surging infections

Japan has granted fast-track approval to U.S. drug maker Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 pill as the country struggles to slow fast-spreading omicron infections.

The health minister says the availability of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill gives high-risk patients, including elderly people and those with underlying health issues, greater treatment options. The approval comes as surging cases among elderly patients are starting to overwhelm hospitals in Tokyo and other metropolitan areas, and delayed booster vaccinations have reached only about 8% of the population.

On Friday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced a three-week extension of ongoing virus restrictions in 13 areas including Tokyo.