Most prefectural governments to have mass vaccination sites to speed up booster shots

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Medical personnel arrive to receive a booster shot at a mass vaccination venue located in the Tokyo metropolitan government building in Shinjuku Ward on Friday.

In an effort to speed up booster shots of the novel coronavirus vaccine, 31 of the nation’s 47 prefectures either already have or plan to set up large scale vaccination venues, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey of prefectural governments.

The Tokyo metropolitan government, responding to the alarming surge of infections of highly contagious omicron variant, is among those accelerating a rollout of a third vaccination for essential workers such as medical workers and firefighters.

The survey conducted on Wednesday and Thursday found that five prefectures — Tokyo, Miyagi, Tochigi, Gunma and Hyogo — have already set up mass vaccination venues for medical personnel and other essential workers, while Osaka, Aichi and 24 other prefectures have plans to do so, meaning a combined 66% are moving forward with such venues.

Twelve prefectures, including Hokkaido and Fukuoka, responded that they remain undecided, while Akita, Yamanashi, Wakayama and Ehime said they have no plans to set up large-scale vaccination venues.

On Friday, the Tokyo government announced it will set up three mass vaccination sites for personnel of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Tokyo Fire Department, adding to the two venues that the metropolitan government has already for medical workers.

With the five venues, the metropolitan government expects to vaccinate up to 7,500 people. For the time being, essential workers will be given priority over general residents, although Tokyo is considering expanding the types of professions eligible for the booster shots.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, bringing up the noticeable growing numbers of staff calling in sick at medical facilities and schools in Okinawa Prefecture, said at her regular press conference on Friday, “We are starting [the booster shots] with people on the front line protecting society. As the omicron variant spreads at high speed, we have to implement countermeasures at high speed.”

The Osaka prefectural government will set up mass vaccination sites at six locations at the end of this month at the earliest. It initially planned to set up three venues, but doubled the amount due to the omicron surge.

Prefecture residents 18 years and older who had completed the first two shots will be eligible, and the government estimates about 5,800 people will be vaccinated per day.

For some prefectural governments which responded “undecided,” the main concern is over the ability to secure stocks of the vaccines.

For the first and second shots, the central government provided vaccines to prefectural governments separate from those provided to municipal governments. But for the booster shots, the central government is only allocating vaccines in bulk to the prefectures.

“After we distribute vaccines to municipal governments, there won’t be any left for ourselves, making it difficult to set up a rollout as the prefectural government,” a Fukuoka prefectural government official said.

Others voiced concerns about being able to secure venues as well as the personnel to give the injections.

Among the reasons given by the four prefectures with no plans to set up a mass vaccination site, “Booster shots can be dealt with by municipal governments,” a Wakayama prefectural government official said.