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As the nation accelerates its vaccination drive, bookings for COVID-19 inoculations at a large venue run by the Self-Defense Forces in Osaka are filling up much faster than for the facility in Tokyo.

A senior Defense Ministry official was unsure of the reason for the disparity, but some are pointing to the severe wave of the virus that hit Osaka this spring as a potential cause.

The scope of people eligible to book vaccinations at the venues is being expanded in stages. On May 17, reservations started for 24,500 doses at the Osaka venue, for older residents of the city of Osaka and for 49,000 shots at the Tokyo venue for older people from the capital’s 23 wards.

The Osaka slots were fully booked in less than 30 minutes after the start of reservations. In contrast, the Tokyo slots, where the number of doses available was twice as large as the number at the Osaka venue, weren’t filled until May 18, or a day and a half after the reservation window started.

Last Monday, reservations began for older people in the rest of Osaka Prefecture and those from all areas of Tokyo. Osaka’s 35,000 slots filled up in about 30 minutes once gain, but about 18,000 of the Tokyo venue’s 70,000 slots were still available as of 3 p.m. Thursday.

The Defense Ministry therefore expanded ahead of schedule those eligible for shots at the Tokyo venue to residents of neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures on Friday. People living in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa who aren’t registered as residents of the four prefectures are also able to book shots. When the coverage was expanded to the three neighboring prefectures, the remaining slots were filled in only about 50 minutes.

On the relatively slow pace of reservations at the Tokyo venue, a senior ministry official said, “This may have been because municipal governments in Tokyo are steadily making progress in preparing their own inoculation programs.”

The official said that the slots at the Osaka venue may have been filled quickly because people in Osaka are impatient, but another government official said that Tokyoites are of a similar temperament.

Meanwhile, State Minister of Defense Yasuhide Nakayama, who is from Osaka, had a different view of the situation at a news conference on Thursday.

“People in Osaka are under strong pressure” over the coronavirus crisis, he said.

The daily number of new infections in Osaka Prefecture frequently exceeded reported numbers in Tokyo beginning in late March, although new cases in Kansai are now on the decline.

The cumulative death toll linked to the virus stood at 2,260 in Osaka as of Friday, more than Tokyo’s 2,048 despite having a smaller population than the capital.

The ministry plans to continue offering 35,000 vaccination slots at the Osaka venue and 70,000 at the Tokyo site every week.

“If the situation in which Tokyo’s slots are not fully booked continues, reviewing the balance between the two venues could become an option,” a senior official of the ministry said, suggesting that slots in Tokyo may be reduced to increase those in Osaka.

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