The government said Monday that 19.3% of the country's eligible population has received the third COVID-19 vaccine dose, with 49% of its elderly residents vaccinated, as the country grapples to contain the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The pace of vaccination shots in February ranging between 300,000 and 900,000 per day is still short of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's goal of 1 million set earlier in the month.

The percentage of the population having received the booster shot has increased from 4.5% at the end of January. In February, the daily number of shots peaked on Feb. 19 with 930,000 shots administered.

In administering the first and second shots last year, the government hit the 1 million mark in early June, two months after its vaccine rollout began with its elderly population. In July, the number rose to as high as 1.7 million.

"It is necessary to further accelerate the vaccination rate to improve the infection situation and minimize the number of dead and seriously ill," said Takaji Wakita, the head of COVID-19 advisory panel for the health ministry.

Japan confirmed 51,348 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, with a cumulative total of over 5 million cases. Of those, 3 million were reported this year as the highly transmissible omicron variant spread.

Daily infections have been declining recently, but Japan is recording around 200 deaths per day and the health care system remains strained.