According to the Sankei Newspaper on Thursday, a mass vaccination center in Tokyo will begin scheduling COVID-19 doses for those under 65 years old on Saturday, as Japan ramps up attempts to inoculate people before the 2020 Olympics open next month.
In February, Japan began immunizing frontline health workers and the elderly, but the poor pace in comparison to other major industrialized nations has prompted calls for the Tokyo Games to be postponed or cancelled.
Many Japanese citizens are concerned that the country will be unprepared to host tens of thousands of foreign athletes and Olympic officials as the country’s healthcare system battles a fourth wave of diseases.
The Tokyo vaccination center will also begin taking appointments by telephone for the first time from Saturday, in addition to online bookings in a bid to encourage more people to use the center, the Sankei reported.
A spokeswoman at the Ministry of Defense, which operates the site, declined to comment on the telephone and did not immediately respond to an email.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday said Japan aims to finish vaccinating all citizens requesting shots by October-November. That may require around 1 million injections a day.
With less than 50 days before the Olympics open, Japan has vaccinated just over a tenth of its population with at least one dose. Organizers this month will decide whether to allow people in Japan to attend events after earlier banning overseas spectators.
In a sign of continued concern about the risk of more infections during the Games, however, the governor of Chiba prefecture on Thursday cancelled plans for an outdoor Olympic viewing site in a park that would have drawn thousands of people.
Toshihito Kumagai remarked at a news conference broadcast by local media, “We have decided to cancel plans for the live site.”
Chiba prefecture, which borders Tokyo, will host four Olympic and four Paralympic activities, including surfing, fencing, wrestling, and taekwondo. On Wednesday, 106 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the prefecture, compared to 440 in Tokyo.