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Municipalities in Japan restrict COVID vaccinations as demand outpaces gov't supply

COVID-19 vaccine syringes ready for administration are seen in this photo. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

COVID-19 vaccinations are being halted or restricted by an increasing number of municipalities across Japan amid a dwindling supply of the Pfizer vaccine as localized demand for inoculations increases.

    The move has also been taken by some major cities, with the cities of Kobe and Chiba announcing a halt to vaccination reservations on July 2.

    The city of Osaka announced on July 2 that it would suspend first inoculations from July 12, while Kobe said it would do the same from July 6. Both cities have seen significant declines in the supply of Pfizer vaccines they had expected to get from the central government, and decided to prioritize second shots. Vaccinations that have already been reserved will be frozen, impacting over 50,000 people in Kobe.

    On July 2, The Chiba Municipal Government announced that it would stop accepting new reservations for first shots of the vaccine for the time being, both for individual and group inoculations. The city's medical policy division said that it had not received word from the central government on the vaccine supply from July 19 onward. Vaccinations that have already been reserved will be administered as scheduled.

    In the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, vaccination bookings for residents between the ages of 18 and 49 have been postponed indefinitely. The city of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, meanwhile, announced that it would, for the time being, accept reservations for group vaccinations to be carried out by the end of July and for individual inoculation scheduled to be administered by early August. The Iwate Prefecture city of Ofunato said that it would delay the start of vaccination reservations for people aged under 65 until July 15, 10 days later than it had initially planned.

    The moves come as vaccine demand from local governments has outpaced supply from the central government. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on July 1 informed prefectural governments that it would be able to supply a total of 12.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine between July 19 and the end of the month -- a far cry short of the 34.2 million total doses local governments had requested. This apparently prompted some local bodies to apply the brakes on inoculations. The number of vaccines provided in the first half of July has also been only around half of the requested amount, spurring supply concerns.

    (Japanese original by Atsushi Morinaga, Mito Bureau, Tomohiro Shibata, Chiba Bureau, Mirai Nagira, Osaka City News Department, and Shinya Yamamoto, Kobe Bureau)

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