Chief cabinet secretary to double as vaccination minister

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has decided to have Noriko Horiuchi vacate the position of minister in charge of COVID-19 vaccinations on Thursday and have Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno concurrently serve in the post from Friday, Matsuno revealed Tuesday.

“I will work closely with the health minister to do everything possible so that all people wanting to receive their third round of COVID-19 vaccines will be able to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Matsuno told a press conference.

Horiuchi will leave Kishida’s cabinet as the maximum number of cabinet members under the cabinet law will be reduced from 20 to 19 at the end of March.

After her departure, the cabinet will have only two female members: Seiko Noda, minister in charge of measures against the declining birthrate, and Karen Makishima, minister for digitalization.

Horiuchi also holds the post of minister for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, held in summer 2021, which will be taken over by sports minister Shinsuke Suematsu.

After becoming a cabinet member for the first time in October last year, Horiuchi worked on speeding up rollouts of novel coronavirus booster vaccine shots.

Matsuno praised Horiuchi’s time as minister, saying that the country managing to give one million booster shots a day under Horiuchi was “a great achievement.”

Initially, there were also plans to have health minister Shigeyuki Goto succeed Horiuchi as vaccination minister.

As the reason for Matsuno set to hold the ministerial post, he cited the need for the cabinet to work on the vaccine issue “in a comprehensive and integrated manner.”