Japan Opens Mass Vaccination Centers Ahead of Summer Olympics

The new vaccination centers aim to inoculate 10,000 people per day in Tokyo and 5,000 per day in Osaka.

Japan has launched vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka, two months ahead of the start of the Olympic Games.

Military doctors and nurses are present in Japan's two largest cities to vaccinate thousands of people each day, prioritizing the elderly, The Associated Press reported. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to vaccinate the country's 36 million elderly people by the end of July.

"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," Suga said at a press conference.

The new vaccination centers aim to inoculate 10,000 people per day in Tokyo and 5,000 per day in Osaka. To increase the number of vaccinations throughout the country, Suga has called on dentists, retired nurses, and pharmacists to assist in inoculation efforts. Paramedics and clinical laboratory technicians may also join the efforts.

Olympic rings in Tokyo
PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

Critics of the upcoming games have said that it is unsafe to hold the Olympics while most Japanese citizens remain unvaccinated. Japan's vaccine efforts started late and were halted by supply issues. As a result, less than 2% of the adult population is currently vaccinated against COVID-19.

After a new surge in coronavirus cases, many parts of the country went under lockdown measures. Tokyo and nine other prefectures — which are home to about 40% of the population — are under a state of emergency.

Japan has reported more than 700,000 cases of COVID-19 and 12,000 deaths from the virus.

The Olympics are scheduled to open in Tokyo on July 23. The Olympics will be held with many COVID-19 precautions in place. Spectators from abroad will not be allowed into the games.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced earlier this month that it will partner with the International Olympic Committee to vaccinate athletes ahead of the games. The first vaccine doses are "expected to begin at the end of May where possible with the aim to ensure participating delegations receive second doses ahead of arrivals in Tokyo," according to a press release.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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