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Kishida vows to boost capacity at Tokyo mass vaccination site


Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told parliament Wednesday that a Self-Defense Forces-run mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Tokyo will boost its daily capacity to about 5,000 shots next week.

The Tokyo venue, which is currently capable of administering 720 shots a day, was already set to raise the figure to 2,160 on Monday. The government is considering raising the capacity to around 4,000 on Tuesday and around 5,000 on Feb. 10, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference.

Kishida told parliament that he will lead efforts to speed up the booster shot rollout, including by making it clear that mixing-and-matching vaccinations is effective. “I’ll spearhead the vaccination campaign,” he said.

The prime minister reiterated that the government is not considering declaring a COVID-19 state of emergency for now. “We have to think about (the matter) while closely monitoring the situation,” he said.

Only 30.5% of the 14.7 million people eligible for booster vaccinations had received their third shots as of the end of January.

Vaccines for 32.5 million doses have been supplied since the booster vaccination began in the country two months ago. Though the central government hopes to increase the pace, its frequent policy changes over the minimum interval between the second and third shots have made local government work to issue vaccination vouchers more complicated.

Meanwhile, the health ministry said Tuesday it will relax its minimum requirement for COVID-19 booster vaccination programs at workplaces and accept applications from those capable of vaccinating 500 or more people.

Previously, a workplace vaccination program needed to inoculate at least 1,000 people, in principle. The relaxed rule is designed to accelerate the rollout of booster shots, which has been criticized as being slow.

Workplace vaccination programs for the first and second shots took place at 4,044 venues across the country, but for the third shots, applications from only 2,575 venues had been received by Monday.

The ministry asked companies why they have not applied for workplace vaccinations for the third shots even though they applied for the first and second doses and many companies said they plan to administer the third shots to less than 1,000 people, according to the ministry.

For workplace vaccination programs, boxes of Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, each containing doses for 150 people, will be delivered to companies and other organizations.

If a workplace is to vaccinate 500 people, four boxes will be provided, leaving 100 doses unused.

The ministry has been asking companies and other organizations to expand the scope of vaccinations to cover people outside the organizations, including client corporations, in order to prevent shots from being discarded.

In addition, the ministry will increase the amount of subsidies provided to groups of small companies jointly conducting a workplace vaccination program.

“We hope to receive applications from more companies considering workplace vaccination so as to inoculate willing people as soon as possible,” health minister Shigeyuki Goto said.

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