The Japanese government is planning to open large vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka in the coming weeks to administer shots in a bid to speed up its inoculation drive, local media reported on Sunday.
Japan only started vaccinating its sizable elderly population this month and health experts say it may take till the winter (December-February) or longer for most of the general populace to get access to the shots.
The Nikkei newspaper said on Sunday the government will open a vaccination site in central Tokyo as early as May that will be able to vaccinate around 10,000 people a day. The site will be open to anyone living and working in Tokyo, the paper said.
Medically trained staff from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces will also assist with vaccinations in such centers, the Nikkei said.
The Japanese government has come under sharp criticism for its sluggish vaccination roll-out, which has been handled mostly by municipal authorities. Japan has vaccinated about 1% of its population, according to a Reuters tracker.
Japan has avoided an explosive spread of the pandemic experienced by many countries. There have been about 550,000 cases and 9,761 deaths, significantly lower numbers than in other large economies.
But the latest rise in infections has stoked alarm, with a surge in a mutant variant and a critical shortage of medical staff and hospital beds in some areas.
Japan’s third state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and two other prefectures began on Sunday, which will cover nearly a quarter of the population and attempt to combat a surge in coronavirus cases three months before the Tokyo Olympics is set to open.