Japan has kicked off a mass vaccination programme in Tokyo and Osaka, as the Covid crisis worsens.
The military has set up centres offering thousands of shots each day, prioritizing the elderly.
The country’s vaccination drive began late and was hampered by supply shortages and organizational hurdles.
Japan is lagging significantly behind other developed nations, as a result. Only about 1.9% of the population is fully vaccinated.
The country’s efficient health system has been increasingly overwhelmed by the latest surge, with some hospitals running out of beds and ventilators.
Large parts of Japan are currently under a state of emergency to give regional authorities more power to enforce measures against the pandemic.
Japan has recorded more than 700,000 infections and 12,000 Covid-19 deaths from the virus.
With the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to start in July, there’s mounting pressure to call the Games off.
The mass vaccination drive is the responsibility of Japan’s defence forces and is scheduled to stretch over the next three months.
Officials have made plans to vaccinate more than 5,000 people in Tokyo and 2,500 in Osaka every day with the recently approved Moderna jab, while in June and July this capacity is set to double.
They have also planned mass vaccination facilities for other major cities like Kobe and Nagoya.