The Japanese government is arranging to end the full-fledged operation of state-run mass vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka in late August as planned, deeming it will not hinder the country's COVID-19 vaccination drive, government sources said Friday.
The winding down of the centers operated by the Self-Defense Forces comes as access to vaccinations has broadened with inoculations also available at workplaces and universities as well as under local government-led campaigns.
But with the central government halting company applications for inoculations indefinitely due to concerns it will be unable to distribute doses quickly enough, it remains unclear if the rollout will continue to proceed smoothly.
Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the inoculation effort, told a press conference Friday that vaccinations at workplaces whose applications are still being processed are unlikely to start before Aug. 9.
The number of people covered in workplace applications pending approval is believed to be around eight million, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The government had initially sought to extend the operation of the Tokyo center, but reversed its stance to avoid putting a strain on the SDF, which needs to prepare for relief activities during potential disasters as Japan's typhoon season approaches, according to the sources.
Since the government wants to ensure that all those who received their initial shots of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc. at the centers can also get their second shot there, the sites may continue partial operation beyond late August, they said.
The two centers, which opened on May 24, have offered up to 15,000 jabs a day in total as the government sought to speed up the vaccination drive in the country, which has lagged far behind other developed nations.
The Defense Ministry said that as of Monday the Tokyo center has offered 328,736 shots, while the Osaka center has given 161,341 shots.
The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 660 new daily coronavirus cases Friday, following 673 reported the previous day.
Its seven-day rolling average of infections per day came to 537.1, topping the 500 mark for the third straight day and hitting Stage 4, the worst level on the government's four-point pandemic alert scale.
The recent rebound in infections has spread worries amid public concerns over whether the Tokyo Olympics starting later this month can be held with spectators.