Japan will begin administering Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine to older citizens in some areas Monday, the second priority group after medical workers, whose inoculations started in February.
A total of 97,500 shots will be initially distributed across all of the nation’s 47 prefectures.
With vaccine supplies to local governments set to accelerate, inoculations of people aged 65 or over are expected to move into full swing in all municipalities by early May.
The second priority group has around 36 million people, including those who turn 65 during the current fiscal year from April.
Older people will receive their shots in principle at municipalities where they are registered as residents. It is necessary to receive a second shot three weeks after the first one.
The vaccine will be administered at large venues prepared by municipalities or at medical institutions. Medical workers will visit care homes and other facilities to vaccinate those staying there.
The central government has distributed four boxes of vaccine, for a total of 3,900 shots, each to Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures and two boxes each to the remaining 44 prefectures.
At least one box will be available at each municipality across Japan by May 2. By the end of June, the delivered amounts will be large enough to vaccinate all older people nationwide twice.
People with underlying conditions will be next in line for vaccination, followed by healthy individuals. But the government has yet to decide when to start vaccinating them.
The health ministry received reports of 350 suspected cases of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, in vaccinations of medical workers by Sunday. Six deaths were also reported, but it is unclear whether the deaths had anything to do with the vaccinations.
By Friday, more than 1.5 million shots had been administered to medical workers. Nearly 500,000 workers have received their second shots.
To encourage older people to receive vaccinations, some municipalities are offering incentives, such as gift certificates and taxi fare subsidies. Officials expect that the measures will also help buoy the local economies.
Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, in cooperation with two pharmaceutical companies based there, will give away bath salts and energy drinks to older citizens who receive vaccinations at any of the four venues established by the ward.
“We hope to give a little push to those hesitating about vaccinations,” a Chiyoda Ward official said.
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