The Japanese government will consider allowing pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines to speed up the country's slow inoculation process, the minister in charge of the vaccinations said Tuesday.
The government will study such an option after seeing whether the addition of dentists will be enough to mitigate the dearth of doctors and nurses who deliver the vaccines, Taro Kono said at a press conference.
Japan began inoculating its elderly population of about 36 million in mid-April, after its vaccination campaign for health care workers started in February, but only around 3 percent of its population of 126 million has received at least one shot of vaccine, the slowest vaccination rate among major economies.
Appointments for inoculations of the elderly at state-run large-scale vaccination centers, slated to open on May 24 in central Tokyo and Osaka, were filled fast after the Defense Ministry made online bookings available Monday.
At present, local cities, towns and villages in Japan are in charge of the inoculation campaign.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has set a target of completing vaccinations of the elderly by the end of July.
Meanwhile, among the country's 47 prefectures and 20 populous cities, around 30 are considering implementing mass vaccination schemes on their own, according to Kono.
"Some local governments will begin their campaigns this month. We'd like to support them," he said.
Gunma, Aichi and Nagasaki prefectures, as well as the city of Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture, are among those that have expressed interest in conducting mass inoculations.