Japan's COVID-19 vaccination program for people under the age of 65 went into full swing Monday as companies and universities have joined hands with the government in launching on-site inoculations at hundreds of venues.
With Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga aiming to complete vaccinations by November, the government has allowed companies and universities to launch their own inoculation programs for the under-65s.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference that the vaccination programs of companies and universities had been carried out at 266 venues as of Monday, including those started earlier by some companies.
The program is currently limited to companies with large workforces and universities with large student bodies. Further expansion of the vaccination rate will depend on whether the government can expand vaccinations to smaller universities, as well as small and midsized companies.
The proportion of the population as a whole to have received two shots now stands at 3.6 percent, according to government data.
A two-dose vaccine developed by U.S. biotech firm Moderna Inc. is used for vaccinations at universities and workplaces, as is the case at mass vaccination sites run by the Self-Defense Forces and local governments.
Universities and companies are required to secure medical professionals and venues to provide shots, and many of those carrying out on-site inoculation programs are universities with medical faculties or major companies.
On Monday, Tohoku University, Hiroshima University, Keio University and Kindai University started programs, while Itochu Corp., Central Japan Railway Co. and SoftBank Group Corp. were among companies taking such initiatives.
All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. started their inoculation programs last week, earlier than the schedule set by the government.
Kato, the government's top spokesman, visited Itochu's Tokyo headquarters to check on vaccinations being administered at the workplace, while Taro Kono, minister in charge of Japan's vaccination effort, got his first shot at the education ministry.
During the visit, Kato cited the significance of workplace vaccinations, saying such measures would free up space for local authorities to inoculate other people such as the self-employed and homemakers.
Kato said the government is preparing to vaccinate Japanese nationals living overseas after the summer at Narita and Haneda airports and is considering issuing vaccination certificates to those who need them.
Nippon Sport Science University is not only vaccinating its students and staff but also workers in the surrounding area.
Eiko Hayashi, 53, who works at a nearby restaurant, thanked the university for giving her a shot, saying, "As a service worker, I am relieved to get vaccinated, courtesy of the university."
As students lined up for their vaccination, Kosuke Kato, 19, a first-year student at the university, said, "I hope I can experience a more student-like life soon."
The daily lives of students at the university, which is aiming to inoculate some 7,500 people, have undergone significant changes since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to introduce online classes and restrict club activities.
"We would like to help students spend time on campus safely," said a university official.
At Kansai University in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, a 22-year-old female student from South Korea said, "I want to return to my home country and visit different countries after getting vaccinated."
Some other universities with medical departments said they will help vaccinate students from other universities.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, the government had accepted applications from companies and universities for inoculations of about 14.64 million people at 3,795 venues.
The government has ended the coronavirus state of emergency covering nine prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, leaving only Okinawa under it until July 11 as hospitals in the southern island prefecture remain under strain from a surge in COVID-19 patients.
Among the nine prefectures, seven, including the capital, on Monday shifted to a quasi-state of emergency, allowing targeted measures for specific areas rather than entire prefectures.
The quasi-state of emergency measures have also been in place since April in three other prefectures near Tokyo.