The health ministry has asked all prefectures to actively consider setting up mass inoculation centers using U.S. drugmaker Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 shot as the government looks to quickly ramp up the vaccine rollout amid signs of an explosive rise in new variant cases.

With the approval of a second and a third vaccine for emergency use expected in less than two weeks, the government is aiming to minimize the impact to municipal governments' existing vaccine networks. These networks have been using U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc.’s vaccines, but the new vaccines made by Moderna and British drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC would need to be handled and stored differently.

The government is planning to allocate Moderna’s vaccines to planned state-run mass inoculation centers at government sites in Tokyo and Osaka on May 24. The mass vaccination sites nationwide would also use Moderna’s vaccines.