Japan starts mass COVID boosters as omicron cases soar

Jan 31, 2022, 1:02 AM | Updated: 1:04 am

TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo has launched a mass inoculation drive for COVID-19 booster shots at a temporary center operated by the military as Japan tries to speed up delayed third jabs to counter surging infections.

Japan began administering booster shots to medical workers in December, but has only provided such inoculations to 2.7% of the population after delaying a decision to cut the interval between the first two coronavirus shots and a booster to six months from the initial eight.

Demand for the shots is intense: Online reservations that started on Friday resulted in all all slots for about 4,300 doses to be given at the center this week being filled within 9 minutes. The center is providing the vaccine made by Moderna, Inc.

On a smaller scale, people 65 and older can get booster shots elsewhere.

The center run by the Self-Defense Force in downtown Tokyo reopened Monday after closing down in late November. It will be vaccinating about 720 people aged 18 or older per day this week, ramping up to more than 2,000 a day next month. Another military-run center will begin booster shots next week in Osaka.

The omicron variant has been spreading quickly, pushing new reported infections to much higher than earlier waves of coronavirus. Tokyo reported 15,895 new cases Sunday, a new high for a Sunday. Nearly half of its hospital capacity is filled. Nationwide, Japan recorded some 78,000 cases for an accumulated total of 2.68 million, with about 18,700 deaths.

A male resident in his 50s said in an interview with Japanese media that vaccination rollouts in his area were slow and he was relieved to get his shot. Another, in his 40s, said he was anxious to be vaccinated because omicron infections were spreading at his son’s elementary school.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited the Tokyo vaccination center on Monday and said most cities are expected to finish providing booster shots for Japanese over 65 by the end of February. Younger Japanese are next in line, but many haven’t received the coupons required to apply for the shots and are unlikely to get boosters until March or later.

Kishida said a decision to close Japan’s borders to most new foreign travelers in late November had helped to slow the latest upsurge in infections.

The government has resisted imposing strict lockdowns to curb the pandemic, largely relying on requests to restaurants to shorten their opening hours and exhorting the public to wear face masks and observe social distancing.

Even though such practices kept the number of cases relatively low in most parts of Japan, and contributed to a sharp drop in infections in the autumn, the pandemic is taking a long, steady economic toll.

“Japan’s overwhelmingly slow booster shots are very likely to significantly delay its economic recovery compared to many other countries,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, a chief economist at the Dai-Ichi Life research Institute.

Pandemic restrictions are now in effect in much of Japan, including Tokyo and other big cities like Osaka and Kyoto, for the first time since September.

The government has faced harsh criticism over delays in its pandemic response, especially the slow start for the initial first two COVID-19 shots last year amid a shortage of imported vaccines. The inoculation rate reached nearly 80% after Kishida’s predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, set a goal of providing 1 million jabs daily to finish inoculating most of the elderly population before last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


This photo mad available by Ukrainian doctor Oleh Duda shows the moment when lights at a hospital w...
Associated Press

Surgeons work by flashlight as Ukraine power grid battered

KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — Dr. Oleh Duda, a cancer surgeon at a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, was in the middle of a complicated, dangerous surgery when he heard explosions nearby. Moments later, the lights went out. Duda had no choice but to keep working with only a headlamp for light. The lights came back when […]
38 minutes ago
Sheree Perry of Virginia Beach, center, prays with chaplains at a memorial on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022...
Associated Press

City to hold vigil honoring those killed in Walmart shooting

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — The city of Chesapeake, Virginia, has scheduled a candlelight vigil for Monday evening that will honor and remember the victims of last week’s mass shooting at a Walmart store. Six employees were killed and six people were wounded by a store supervisor late Tuesday night in the city of about 250,000 […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pakistan launches new anti-polio drive amid spike in cases

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani authorities launched a new nationwide anti-polio drive on Monday amid a spike in new cases among children, health officials said. It is the sixth such campaign this year and will last for five days, aiming to inoculate children under the age of 5 in high-risk areas. The newest drive was aimed […]
1 day ago
FILE - Payton Gendron is led into the courtroom for a hearing at Erie County Court in Buffalo, N.Y....
Associated Press

Lawyers: Buffalo supermarket gunman plans to plead guilty

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A white gunman who targeted a Buffalo supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood plans to plead guilty on Monday to killing 10 people and wounding three others, according to lawyers representing victims’ relatives. Payton Gendron, 19, is scheduled to appear in Erie County Court for a hearing that was postponed for […]
1 day ago
FILE - An election worker verifies a ballot on a screen inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office...
Associated Press

Arizona counties face deadline to certify 2022 election

PHOENIX (AP) — Six Arizona counties must decide Monday whether to certify 2022 election results amid pressure from some Republicans not to officially approve a vote count that had Democrats winning for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide races. Election results have largely been certified without issue in jurisdictions across the country. That’s not been […]
1 day ago
FILE - House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill i...
Associated Press

McCarthy’s pursuit of speaker’s gavel comes at a high cost

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is in the fight of his political life, grinding through the promises and proposals, cajoling and deal-making necessary to win over reluctant colleagues whose support he needs to become House speaker. Every new commitment from McCarthy can be seen as a potentially strategic move, intended to quell skeptics […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Japan starts mass COVID boosters as omicron cases soar