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Tokyo opens mass vaccination center at old Tsukiji fish market site

A Tokyo Fire Department employee receives a COVID-19 vaccine on June 8, 2021, at a mass vaccination center set up on the former site of the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's COVID-19 vaccination efforts received another boost Tuesday as Tokyo opened a mass inoculation center at the now-closed Tsukiji fish market, while companies and universities began applying the same day for permission to conduct on-site vaccinations starting later this month.

    The new vaccination routes, supplementing existing efforts being led by local municipalities, are hoped to accelerate the country's inoculation drive against the novel coronavirus, which has lagged far behind other developed nations.

    The metropolitan government plans to administer doses of a vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc. to 5,000 people a day, initially targeting police officers and firefighters, and 110,000 people in total by the end of June at the Tsukiji site.

    The scope of recipients at the site will expand from those working at the Metropolitan Police Department and Tokyo Fire Department to volunteer members of local fire corps, acupuncturists, osteopaths and others aged 64 or younger.

    To avoid a lack of staff due to adverse reactions to vaccination, the police department has decided to limit the daily number of personnel who receive shots to 8 to 10 percent of its 52,000 workers. The fire department has also decided that workers who are off duty the following day should receive the jabs.

    "I'm relieved to receive a shot. But since I just got the first (of the two doses), I'll continue thorough anti-virus measures," said a 42-year-old Tokyo Fire Department official.

    Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters that the metropolitan government will further improve the running of the Tsukiji vaccination site to increase the efficiency of the inoculation campaign.

    The vacant lot that formerly hosted the fish market can only be used until the end of June as it will become a major transportation hub for the Tokyo Olympics slated to begin in late July. The metropolitan government is scheduled to open a new mass vaccination site at Yoyogi Park in the capital.

    Japan launched its inoculation drive in February starting with health care workers and later expanded it to people aged 65 and older. The government aims to complete the vaccinations of the elderly by the end of July.

    Mass vaccination centers have already been set up by the central government in Tokyo and Osaka, while some other prefectural governments have also established them to speed up the vaccine rollout.

    Universities and companies have been preparing to hold on-site vaccinations for staff, students and employees from June 21, using the Moderna vaccine. Under the scheme, the organizations need to secure venues and medical personnel on their own, while the state will shoulder the costs in principle.

    "Together with the inoculation program implemented by local governments, we will make utmost efforts so that more people can receive vaccinations as soon as possible," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday, referring to the planned campaigns at workplaces and universities.

    Taro Kono, minister in charge of Japan's vaccination efforts, said some workplaces and universities may start inoculations earlier than June 21.

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