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From Toyota to SoftBank, a slew of large companies in Japan have announced they will soon open COVID-19 vaccination sites for their employees — some as early as June 21 — following a decree by the health ministry Wednesday.

While nearly 11 million people have received at least their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday, the country’s inoculation campaign remains far behind that of all other major industrial nations.

In order to catch up, the central government is looking to lean on the private sector and universities to hasten the process.

The central government will subsidize ¥2,070 for each vaccine dose administered by large companies with over 1,000 employees, said Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the country's vaccine rollout, on Wednesday during a virtual meeting with the National Governors’ Association. Large companies should begin administering shots before they receive compensation, Kono added.

“For small or mid-sized companies and other organizers, the question is whether the government can shoulder all the costs of vaccinations,” he said. “While there are doubts about that, we will look into how the government can provide support.”

Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways announced Wednesday they aim to start vaccinating their employees on June 21, with priority given to pilots and flight attendants.

JAL said it requested, through the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan, that pilots and crew be prioritized in the government's vaccine rollout.

“Which is why we’re very happy to receive this opportunity,” the company said in a statement.

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the nation’s vaccine rollout, speaks to reporters on Tuesday. | KYODO
Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the nation’s vaccine rollout, speaks to reporters on Tuesday. | KYODO

Itochu Corp., one of the nation's largest conglomerates, said it will begin vaccinating its roughly 7,500 domestic employees on June 21.

Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. said it plans to vaccinate 5,000 employees a month at two sites in the capital. Staff members involved in marketing will be prioritized since they interact directly with clients.

Other companies preparing to vaccinate their employees include East Japan Railway Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and SoftBank Group Corp.

A number of companies in the finance world — Nomura Holdings Inc., Daiwa Securities Group Inc., Mizuho Financial Group Inc. and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., among others — are reportedly looking to follow suit.

The central government is also looking to open inoculation sites at a number of university campuses.

Jiji Press reported Wednesday that officials aim to establish vaccine sites at 15 universities across the country.

Around 200 nurses — most of whom volunteered to help at a vaccination site set to open on June 8 at the former location of Tsukiji Market — received their first dose Sunday at the Tokyo Nursing Association office in Shinjuku Ward. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
Around 200 nurses — most of whom volunteered to help at a vaccination site set to open on June 8 at the former location of Tsukiji Market — received their first dose Sunday at the Tokyo Nursing Association office in Shinjuku Ward. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI

According to the report, students and staff members, as well as employees at nearby kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools, would be eligible to get vaccinated at university sites.

As officials try to include workers and young people in their efforts to reach a pace of 1 million inoculations a day, securing a sufficient number of medical staff to administer shots remains a major issue.

Of the nearly 11 million people who had received at least their first vaccine doses as of Wednesday, 4.73 million were front-line medical workers and 6.27 million were those 65 and older. Around 3.78 million second doses have been administered.

NHK reported Thursday morning that the central government will also start inoculating public servants in June, including those who are directly involved with crisis management and border restrictions.

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