A mass vaccination centre in Tokyo will begin booking COVID-19 shots for people under 65 years old from Saturday, the Sankei Newspaper reported on Thursday, as Japan ramps up efforts to inoculate people before the 2020 Olympics open next month.
Japan began vaccinating frontline health workers and elderly people in February, but the slow pace compared with other major industrialised nations has spurred calls for the Tokyo Games to be delayed again or cancelled.
Many Japanese are worried the country is unprepared to host tens of thousands of foreign athletes and Olympic officials as its healthcare system struggles with a fourth wave of infections.
The Tokyo vaccination centre 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 centre, the Sankei reported.
A spokeswoman at the Ministry of Defence, 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.
“We have decided to cancel plans for the live site,” Toshihito Kumagai said at a press briefing broadcast by local media.
Neighbouring Tokyo, Chiba prefecture is due to host four Olympic events – surfing, fencing, wrestling and taekwondo – and four Paralympic events. On Wednesday, the prefecture recorded 106 new COVID-19 cases compared with 440 in Tokyo.