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Japan mulls large centers to give COVID vaccines to 10,000 per day

Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Norihisa Tamura. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan is considering operating large-scale COVID-19 vaccination centers capable of administering shots to 10,000 people per day, as part of efforts to speed up a vaccine rollout that is trailing behind other countries, government sources said Sunday.

    Such centers, which will be separate from vaccination facilities operated by local governments, are slated to be set up in Tokyo and Osaka, with the central government also considering utilizing medically-certified Self-Defense Forces personnel to help administer shots.

    In accordance with Japan's vaccination law, local governments have been responsible for setting up vaccination sites and securing doctors to administer the vaccine. But there are concerns that there will be a shortage of venues and vaccinators once the rollout hits full tilt.

    The government plans to allow dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines to address the dearth of doctors.

    Vaccinations must generally be administered at the municipality where the resident is registered, but to improve convenience people will also be able to get vaccinated at the state-run centers if they are in possession of pre-distributed inoculation coupons, the sources said.

    Health minister Norihisa Tamura said in a Fuji Television program Sunday that the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in Japan for people under 65 may begin in July depending on the availability of supplies.

    Japan launched its vaccination program in mid-February initially for health care workers and then for those aged 65 or older earlier this month, with less than 1 percent of the country's population of 126 million being inoculated as of April 9.

    Regarding the state of emergency that took effect in Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, Tamura said in a different program on public broadcaster NHK that it could be lifted before the scheduled end date of May 11 if business restrictions and other measures prove effective in bringing down the number of infections.

    Asked about the possibility of expanding the state of emergency to other areas, he said the government will consult experts if needed, but stopped short of elaborating.

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