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The Japanese government on Monday reopened a mass COVID-19 vaccination center in Tokyo to speed up the administration of third injections to tackle the new wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The center, which opened amid criticism that the government has been slow to offer booster shots, is run by the Self-Defense Forces and will offer people over the age of 18 the vaccine from US pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who visited the site on Monday, said his administration will “explain in detail to the public the importance of booster vaccinations and the effectiveness of mixing and matching vaccines.”

Mass COVID-19 vaccinations operated by the Japan Self-Defense Forces begin at a facility in Tokyo’s Otemachi business district on January 31, 2022, for people aged 18 and over receiving their third vaccination. (Group photo) (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Kishida urged people to get their injections quickly after receiving their vaccination tickets from local municipalities.

However, it is unlikely that the center will dramatically speed up the pace of inoculations. Capacity is initially limited to 720 spaces per day, far less than the 10,000 available at the same location from May to November of last year, and an elevator malfunction in the old facility reduced available space to one floor.

Responding to criticism about the low availability of such spaces, Kishida told parliament that his government will “make great efforts to expand the number,” adding that he has also been seeking the cooperation of municipalities in setting up such mass inoculation centers.

In Japan, only 2.7 percent of the population as of last Friday had received the third injection, according to the government, a much lower proportion than in Britain, France and Germany, where more than 50 percent of the population received booster shots.

Japan is facing a resurgence of infections, with new cases across the country reaching 84,000 on Saturday, a record for the fifth day in a row.

The number of daily COVID cases in Tokyo on Monday exceeded 10,000 for the seventh day in a row with 11,751 infections, while the proportion of designated hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in the capital reached 49.2 percent on the same day.

The Tokyo center will expand spaces to 2,160 on February 7, while an Osaka mass vaccination center will start operating on the same day with 960 spaces per day.

The number of spaces at the Osaka headquarters has decreased from the 5,000 available at an SDF-run facility in a different part of the city last year due to limitations on the size of the building the government could secure this time.

The Tokyo and Osaka locations will be open from 8 am to 8 pm daily. Those who want to receive the vaccines must have vaccination tickets issued by local governments and make reservations on the designated website.

People can make reservations from anywhere in Japan, but six months must have passed since their second vaccination. Slots from Monday to Saturday have been filled, according to the government.

“I am grateful because I wanted to get the injection as soon as possible, but I couldn’t get it in my hometown. I feel relieved because I don’t want to spread the virus to my family,” said Hiroshi Ito, 57. A one-year-old resident of Tokyo’s Sumida Ward who came to the Tokyo headquarters in the morning.

Japan reopens mass vaccination center for COVID booster shots

People head to a facility in Tokyo’s Otemachi shopping district on January 31, 2022 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Mass vaccinations operated by the Japan Self-Defense Forces began on the same day for people over the age of 18 who received their third vaccination. (kyodo) == kyodo


Japan reopens mass vaccination center for COVID booster shots

Japan reopens mass vaccination center for COVID booster shots

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