COVID-19 vaccinations for older people are expected to be finished in 1,490 of the 1,741 municipalities in Japan, or 85.6%, by the end of July, according to a survey by the internal affairs and health ministries.
The vaccination program for some 36 million people age 65 or over kicked off on April 12. According to the ministries, at least 30 million of those people will be vaccinated by the end of July.
To accelerate the rollout, large vaccination centers operated by the Self-Defense Forces are planned in Tokyo and Osaka, with inoculations set to begin on May 24.
The Defense Ministry said Wednesday that bookings for large vaccination centers will be accepted from Monday through a dedicated website and the Line messaging app.
On April 23, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that the government plans to give all older people hoping to get inoculated the second shot of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of July.
Suga on Friday voiced his hope that a total of 1 million shots are given per day across the country. He told reporters Wednesday, "We'll continue to support local governments so that all citizens will be vaccinated as soon as possible."
The two ministries asked cities, wards, towns and villages through prefectural governments when they expect to finish the vaccinations for older people.
Seventeen of the country's 47 prefectures, including Kyoto and Hyogo, which are under the central government's third state of emergency over the coronavirus, said they expect to finish the vaccination of older people in all municipalities by the end of July.
Tokyo said that 67.7% of its municipalities will complete the vaccinations for older people by the end of July. The proportion came to 92.6% in Aichi Prefecture, 90.7% in Osaka Prefecture and 86.7% in Fukuoka Prefecture. The four prefectures are also under the state of emergency.
Meanwhile, only 56.0% of municipalities in Akita Prefecture are expected to finish vaccinating older citizens by the end of July. The proportion came to 62.9% in Shizuoka Prefecture, and 63% in Okayama Prefecture.
As local governments are having difficulties securing inoculation venues and health care workers to administer the vaccines, the central government aims to help them end the vaccinations of older people earlier than planned partly by supporting prefectural governments' moves to set up venues for group vaccinations.
At mass vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka, people age 65 or over who have vaccination coupons sent from relevant local governments will be eligible for shots. Reservations will not be accepted by phone, while telephone consultations will be available for issues related to the vaccinations at the large venues.
A central government building in the Otemachi district in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward will host the venue in the capital. The venue in Osaka will be set up at the Osaka International Convention Center in Kita Ward.
Vaccinations at the venues will be provided between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on all days during the three months until Aug. 24.
The scope of areas covered by the program will be expanded in stages, in order to prevent confusion, the Defense Ministry said.
Between May 24 and 30, only residents of Tokyo's 23 special wards and the city of Osaka will be able to get vaccinated at the Tokyo and Osaka venues, respectively.
Between May 31 and June 6, older people from all Tokyo areas will be eligible for vaccinations at the Tokyo venue, and those from across Osaka Prefecture at the Osaka venue.
Starting June 7, vaccinations at the Tokyo venue will be given also to residents of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, and the Osaka venue will accept residents of Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures as well.
The ministry will send around 80 SDF medical officers and some 200 nurses from across the country to the two venues. In addition, around 200 nurses will be dispatched from the private sector each day.
The ministry expects to vaccinate a total of up to 15,000 people per day at the two venues — up to 10,000 in Tokyo and up to 5,000 in Osaka.
"We would like to ask people not to rush to make reservations as we plan to secure and offer plenty of vaccines," State Defense Minister Yasuhide Nakayama told reporters.
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