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Japan must significantly ramp up the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations or face the prospect of up to four more states of emergency by the end of next March, Osamu Tsukimori reports.

That’s according to two researchers’ projection based on a scenario in which 220,000 jabs are given daily. At that pace, it would take nearly three years to fully vaccinate Japan’s population aged 16-plus.

Japanese business leaders are raising their voices to decry the sluggish rollout, offering a rare chorus of warnings over increasing risks to any economic recovery, Bloomberg reports. “The fact that we are so late for the vaccination, it’s really dangerous to host the big international event,” Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani told CNN, referring to the Olympics. “This is like a suicide mission.”

A woman gets a COVID-19 vaccine jab in Tokara, Kagoshima Prefecture, on April 27 as the inoculation campaign began for the village, which has not reported any COVID-19 cases. | KYODO
A woman gets a COVID-19 vaccine jab in Tokara, Kagoshima Prefecture, on April 27 as the inoculation campaign began for the village, which has not reported any COVID-19 cases. | KYODO

Vaccine czar Taro Kono last week blamed Japan’s drug approval process for the slow start, with only one shot, Pfizer/BioNTech’s, cleared for use so far.

On Friday, the health ministry said Japan has signed a contract with Pfizer to receive 50 million more vaccine doses, bringing the total ordered from the company to 194 million shots, enough to fully inoculate 97 million people.

In a bid to step up the pace, large vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka are set to open their doors next week, with online reservations being accepted from today.

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