06/02/2021 / By Ramon Tomey
Japan has opened two mass vaccination centers to inoculate citizens aged 65 and older. The country’s goal to vaccinate elderly Japanese by the end of July 2021 aligned with the Tokyo Olympics scheduled that month. The Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka aimed to vaccinate thousands of people during their three-month operation.
The Japan Times reported that the Tokyo and Osaka vaccination hubs opened on May 24. Both hubs would be able to administer 15,000 shots daily – with the Tokyo hub capable of 10,000 inoculations and the Osaka hub capable of 5,000. The Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) would run the centers, open from May to July of this year.
Both JSDF-run vaccination centers will be using the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine recently approved by the Japanese government. The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine also received emergency approval in the East Asian country. Before these two vaccine candidates, Japan had been vaccinating its population with the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Local governments in the country administered the two-dose mRNA vaccine to their residents.
The two vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka contributed to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s COVID-19 inoculation targets. Earlier in the month, he expressed his intention to increase inoculations to 1 million shots per day. Japanese media reports said reaching this goal would require increasing the current vaccination rate by roughly three times.
The central government under Suga aims to fully vaccinate Japan’s 36 million residents 65 years old and above by the end of July. However, the slow vaccine rollout in the country threatens to push back this goal. Minister for COVID-19 Vaccines Taro Kono pointed his finger at the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, the Japanese vaccine regulator, for the slow rollout. The minister told TBS TV: “Even though we are in a state of crisis, we’re still using the same rules to approve vaccines that we do under normal times.”
Aside from opening new vaccination sites, the central government is also considering other ways to encourage the Japanese to get vaccinated. These methods included allowing pharmacies to administer the COVID-19 vaccines to elderly customers.
Following the example of the vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka, more local governments in Japan have set up additional vaccination sites in their areas. According to a recent Kyodo News poll, 28 prefectures and major cities have decided to consider setting up similar inoculation hubs. These include the city of Kobe and the Aichi, Fukuoka and Okinawa prefectures.
The local government of Tokyo also announced plans to establish another vaccination site in the city. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said on May 21 that the Japanese capital will build a mass inoculation site. She added that the new center, which will be built on the former location of the Tsukiji fish market, will prioritize public safety officers such as police officers and firefighters.
The central government’s Tokyo vaccination center will cater to the city’s elderly residents and those living in the surrounding Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures. The Osaka vaccination center will accommodate residents in the same age group living in the Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures.
The Japan Times talked to several elderly citizens who received the shot at the Tokyo inoculation hub. University lecturer Wakako Kushiro said: “The needle hurt so little that I barely noticed it when it went in. The 71-year-old added that she had been “very eager” to get the COVID-19 vaccine because she routinely conducted face-to-face classes with students.
Retiree Kazutoshi Yuyama described the whole vaccination process as meticulously prepared. “If things can be run as smoothly as they were [in the vaccination center], I feel there should be more centers like this,” the 65-year-old said.
However, Japanese who get vaccinated against COVID-19 may be unable to donate blood as a result. The Japanese Red Cross Society posted guidance on its website regarding individuals prohibited from donating blood after receiving certain types of vaccines. It said that individuals vaccinated against “new coronaviruses” – such as the Wuhan coronavirus – cannot donate blood for the time being.
Those who received inactivated and toxoid vaccines such as those for influenza, cholera, hepatitis A and tetanus are prohibited from donating blood 24 hours following vaccination. Individuals who received “weakly poisonous live vaccines” such as those against mumps and rubella have a longer prohibition period of four weeks following vaccination.
Receiving a vaccine against smallpox extends the blood donation ban for two months, the guidance said. Meanwhile, those injected with a rabies vaccine following an animal bite are not allowed to donate blood until a year has passed after their inoculation.
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