Japan opens mass vaccination sites for the elderly ahead of the Olympics | Olympic News


Centers in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities will vaccinate thousands of people every day, boosting the slow mass inoculation in Japan.

Japan has opened mass vaccination centers in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities as it rushes to vaccinate most of its elderly population before the Olympics start in July.

The centers, open Monday, will vaccinate thousands of people every day, boosting Japan’s slow vaccination campaign as officials fight a fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

“It’s better to do it early,” said Tetsuya Urano, 66, who was among the first to be vaccinated in the Japanese capital.

“Everything went well, overall.”

The Tokyo facility, made up of medical doctors and nursing sisters, will operate 12 hours a day to administer injections to 10,000 people a day for the next three months.

The site in Osaka, the western metropolis of Japan, will produce up to around 5,000 shots per day. Large-scale inoculation sites run by local governments have also opened in Aichi, Miyagi and Gunma prefectures.

“Speeding up the deployment makes us feel more secure as it affects our social life and our economy,” said Munemitsu Watanabe, a 71-year-old office worker who had his first chance in central Tokyo.

“If 80-90% of the population gets vaccinated, I think we can run the Olympics smoothly.”

Tokumitsu Aoki, center, is escorted to receive his first dose of vaccine at the Ryogoku Kokugikan sports arena, now used as a vaccination spot for local residents over the age of 65 in Tokyo. [Eugene Hoshiko/ AP]

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called for the centers to open last month in an effort to speed up the vaccination rollout in Japan as a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled anti-Olympic sentiment across the country .

Currently, Tokyo and nine other regions that are home to 40% of Japan’s population are under a state of emergency linked to the virus which is due to end on May 31.

The measures – in place in some areas since January – are expected to be extended, several people familiar with the move told Reuters news agency.

With coronavirus cases still high, two medical associations have warned the healthcare system is already overburdened and the Games – which are set to start on July 23 – will add further stress.

Suga now says vaccines are essential for controlling infections. He did not make the vaccinations conditional on the Olympics being held, but arranged for Pfizer to donate its vaccine to athletes through the International Olympic Committee.

Overall, Japan has avoided an explosive spread of the virus to other countries, with 12,265 deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic.

But the government has come under heavy criticism for its slow rollout of immunization. Only 4.4% of Japan’s population of 125 million have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the slowest rate among the world’s largest and wealthiest countries.

Japan began its inoculation campaign in mid-February, later than most major economies. The campaign was initially slowed down by low supplies of imported doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE.

But even as shipments increased, deployment was hampered by labor shortages and malfunctions in the reservation system.

In addition to the Pfizer vaccine, mass vaccination centers for the elderly are using the Moderna vaccine, which was approved on Friday, as well as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson said on Monday it had sought regulatory approval for its sole candidate and could start supplying the country in early 2022.

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