• KYODO, Jiji

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Over 80% of prefectural capitals — or 38 of the 47 — have raised concerns about whether they have enough doctors and nurses to vaccinate residents against the coronavirus as the nation prepares to start inoculations in late February, according to a Kyodo News survey.

In multiple answers, 30 capital cities cited securing vaccination sites such as gymnasiums as a major challenge for the planned vaccinations, the survey released Saturday showed.

As for other challenges, 18 referred to fiscal resources for vaccinations and 16 cited the difficulty in managing COVID-19 vaccines with freezers.

Five cities — Morioka, Toyama, Kofu, Kochi and Miyazaki — said they may have to delay the start of vaccinations.

Vaccinations are slated to begin in Japan by late February, starting with medical workers, followed by people aged 65 or older from late March, and then people with pre-existing conditions and those caring for seniors.

Government sources have said Japan aims to start vaccinating the general public in May after giving shots to medical workers, followed by people age 65 or older from late March, then people with pre-existing conditions and those caring for older people.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference Wednesday that the government “is not in a situation to announce a detailed schedule” for inoculating ordinary citizens below the age of 65.

According to the survey, conducted on Thursday and Friday, Tokyo and 43 prefectural capitals said they have launched or plan to set up task forces to oversee vaccinations.

Saitama, Kyoto and Osaka said they expect more than 90% of residents of their respective cities to receive vaccinations, while 11 other cities such as Yamagata, Kanazawa, Kobe and Oita expect rates of 60% to 80%.

The remaining 33 cities said they have not yet made such estimates.

Asked what prefectural capitals want from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government, Sapporo said more information was key.

“We don’t know at all when, how many and what kind of vaccines will be shipped, so we cannot make plans (for vaccinations),” an official said.

Citing worries about vaccinating older people, Fukui urged the government “to communicate accurately (about vaccines) after fully confirming their safety and effectiveness.”

Kyoto cited concerns about costs related to vaccinations, saying the city will have to shoulder considerable expenditure on personnel, venues and transportation even with subsidies from the government.

Japan is currently in the throes of a third wave of the virus, with 11 prefectures currently under a second state of emergency declaration.

But despite the emergency, the country’s cumulative death toll linked to the coronavirus has seen its pace accelerate, with the cumulative total exceeding 5,000 on Saturday.

It took about four months for the death toll to rise from 1,000 to 2,000, while the figure topped 3,000 about a month later, 4,000 in 18 days and 5,000 in just 14 days.

People aged 60 or over accounted for 94% of the 4,328 fatalities reported as of Wednesday, according to the health ministry. The proportion of people aged 80 or over rose to 61% of the total deaths from 57% on July 22.

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