• Kyodo, Jiji

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A total of 28 prefectures and large cities in Japan are either planning or considering setting up large-scale coronavirus vaccination sites to expedite the inoculations of older people, according to a Kyodo News survey.

About 90% of those local governments will use the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. of the United States and approved by the health ministry on Friday.

Miyagi, Gunma, and Aichi prefectures will open their venues on Monday, followed by the city of Kobe on Tuesday, according to the survey conducted on 47 prefectural and 20 municipal governments from Tuesday to Friday.

The central government will begin vaccinations at state-run mass vaccination sites in Tokyo and Osaka on Monday as it aims to complete the vaccinations of older people by the end of July.

Japan’s vaccination program lags behind other developed countries. Since its launch in February, beginning with health care workers and later expanding to people aged 65 or older, only around 4% of the country’s population of 126 million has received at least one dose.

The city of Osaka is aiming to vaccinate around 3,500 people per day at its planned mass vaccination center, the highest target among the 28 local governments.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has vowed to ramp up vaccinations to 1 million shots a day in the country.

However, a number of local governments face challenges in securing enough doctors and nurses to administer the shots due to limited medical resources, among other reasons. It is unclear whether inoculations at those sites will proceed smoothly.

Notable challenges mentioned in the survey included “securing doctors and other personnel,” “appointment systems without causing confusion,” and the “handling of cancellations on the day of vaccinations.”

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the nation’s vaccine rollout, has called on local governments across the country to set up mass inoculation venues.

He also called for the flexible use of leftover vaccines, including by giving them to citizens without vaccination tickets.

Kono said some municipalities have a “wrong” understanding that people without vaccination tickets cannot be inoculated.

Some heads of local government have been criticized for taking leftover vaccines that were made available due to cancellations.

“I want (the municipalities) to use the vaccines efficiently and not to throw them away over fears of criticism,” Kono said. “I’ll take responsibility for any criticism that may arise.”

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