Host of Olympics 2020, Japan on Monday opened its first mass vaccination centre. to speed-up a cautious Covid-19 inoculation programme before the games.
Two military centres in Tokyo and Osaka will administer thousands of shots daily, initially to elderly residents of the cities, as the country battles a fourth wave of virus cases.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaking to reporters after a brief visit to the Tokyo centre, said accelerating the vaccine rollout is an “unprecedented challenge.”
“We will do whatever it takes to accomplish the project so that the people can get vaccinated and return to their ordinary daily lives as soon as possible,” he said.
Japan has been heavily criticised over the slow rollout of vaccines as only two percent of the country’s population has been vaccinated so far.
The Tokyo centre aims to deliver up to 10,000 jabs a day, while the Osaka centre will give up to 5,000.
Both are using the two-shot Moderna vaccine, which was approved for use in Japan on Friday along with the AstraZeneca formula.
The use of AstraZaneca vaccine has been suspended however owing to fear of blood clot.
Japan began giving the Pfizer jab in February first to medical workers and then over-65s, who the government aims to finish inoculating by late July, when the Olympics begin.
But ministers insist the Games do not figure on their rollout schedule, and no date has been announced for other age groups.
Japan has seen a relatively small coronavirus outbreak, with around 12,000 deaths overall, but a recent surge in infections has put hospitals under strain.
Tokyo, Osaka and eight other regions are under a virus state of emergency curbing commercial activities until the end of May, with reports saying the measures could be extended for another three weeks.
Alhough, many are against Japan hosting the Olympics organizers insists the event can be held safely.
The majority of athletes and others staying in the Olympic village will be vaccinated before they enter Japan, but inoculation is not required to participate.