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Covid-19: Japan to vaccinate all citizens below 65 years, says health minister

The Covid-19 vaccination rollout for people under the age of 65 in Japan will be carried out people with preexisting conditions and those working at care facilities to help speed up the process, the health minister said.

The ministry had already instructed municipalities to begin sending vaccination vouchers to all those eligible under 65 from the middle of June. But now, even those without underlying medical conditions will be able to get their jab upon receiving the voucher next month.

“if we wait until everyone (with underlying conditions) has been vaccinated, we don’t know when it will be completed,” health, labour and welfare minister Norihisa Tamura said on a program aired by public broadcaster NHK World.

Those who qualify to receive priority vaccinations will need to report to municipalities independently, as the government has no data available as to exactly how many people are eligible.

Kyodo News reported that Japan’s vaccination programme was launched in February for front-line health workers and expanded to those 65 and older in April. The government planned to vaccinate those with underlying conditions, those working for nursing homes and finally, the general public after finishing vaccinating the elderly by July 31.

But the government is looking to speed up the country’s vaccine rollout, which has lagged behind other countries, with just six per cent of its population having received at least one dose.

With the medical system remaining strained, the Covid-19 state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures was extended on Friday by three weeks to June 20, just over a month before the Olympics begin in the capital.

Large-scale Covid-19 vaccination centers run by Self-Defense Forces personnel have begin their full-scale operations from today, a week after opening.

The centers, which currently target those 65 and older, are available to about 9 million people in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area and about 4.7 million people in the three western Japanese prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo.

The Covid-19 state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures was extended on May 28 by three weeks to June 20 — just over a month before the Olympics begin in the capital.

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