Japan Opens Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Centers In Tokyo And Osaka

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Japan opened large-scale coronavirus vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka on Monday in a bid to accelerate the country's inoculation program, which has lagged behind other developed countries and fueled concerns about the plan to hold the Olympics in the capital in two months.

The centers, run by the Self-Defense Forces, will operate for three months from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. including weekends and national holidays. They will use the vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical firm Moderna Inc. that was approved by the government Friday.

Japan hopes the mass venues, aiming to inoculate up to 10,000 people a day in Tokyo and 5,000 in Osaka, will help meet its target to complete vaccinations by the end of July of people aged 65, along with those turning 65 in the current fiscal year, or older. The Tokyo Olympics will open July 23.

In the first week through May 31, only residents of Tokyo's 23 special wards and those in the city of Osaka aged 65 and older are eligible for vaccinations at the Tokyo and Osaka venues, respectively.

Between May 31 and June 6, vaccinations will be available as well to those 65 and older from across Tokyo at the Tokyo venue and to residents of all areas in Osaka Prefecture at the Osaka site. Reservations for that period opened Monday.

From June 7, the scope of those eligible for shots will be expanded to include residents 65 and older of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, all neighboring Tokyo, and those from Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, both adjacent to Osaka Prefecture. Reservations this expanded area will open May 31.

The slots — 49,000 at the Tokyo site and 24,500 at the Osaka venue — were quickly filled after the Defense Ministry started accepting reservations on May 17 on its website and via the Line messaging app. While vaccinations at the two venues are slated to be offered until Aug. 24, the ministry is considering extending the period for the Tokyo site.

The Tokyo venue is located in a central government building in the Otemachi business district in the capital's Chiyoda Ward, and the Osaka venue at the Osaka International Convention Center in the city's Kita Ward.

Japan's vaccination program started in February with health care workers and later expanded to the elderly totaling about 36 million people. But only around 4% of the country's population of 126 million has received at least one dose.

The inoculations have been conducted by local governments using the vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE.


SDF doctors and nurses as well as private nurses who run the vaccination centers received Moderna shots on Sunday, the ministry said.

The Defense Ministry plans to administer vaccines leftover from cancellations to SDF members and private-sector nurses working at the Tokyo and Osaka venues, as well as other staff members involved in the sites' operations.

Some local governments separately plan to set up their own large vaccination sites, with the prefectures of Miyagi, Gunma and Aichi opening their venues Monday.

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