• Kyodo

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The government will consider allowing pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines to speed up the country’s slow inoculation process, the minister in charge of the vaccinations said Tuesday.

The government will study the option after seeing whether the addition of dentists is enough to mitigate a dearth of doctors and nurses when it comes delivering the vaccines, Taro Kono said at a news conference.

Japan began inoculating its older population of about 36 million in mid-April, after its vaccination campaign for health care workers started in February, but only around 3% of its population of 126 million has received at least one shot of a vaccine, the slowest vaccination rate among major economies.

Appointments for inoculations of older people at state-run, large-scale vaccination centers, slated to open Monday next week in central Tokyo and Osaka, were filled up fast after the Defense Ministry made online bookings available Monday.

At present, cities, towns and villages are in charge of the inoculation campaign.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has set a target of completing vaccinations of older people by the end of July.

Meanwhile, among the country’s 47 prefectures and 20 major cities, around 30 are considering implementing mass vaccination schemes on their own, according to Kono.

“Some local governments will begin their campaigns this month. We’d like to support them,” he said.

Gunma, Aichi and Nagasaki prefectures, as well as Kobe, are among those that have expressed interest in conducting mass inoculations.

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