Japanese health officials are opening up mass vaccination sites across the country as Japan prepares to host the postponed 2020 Summer Olympic Games later this year.
Multiple news outlets reported that two centers in Tokyo and Osaka are already up and running as the country aims to vaccinate all elderly residents before an influx of foreign athletes and support staff arrive for the Games, which are not allowing foreign spectators to attend this year.
“We will do whatever it takes to accomplish the project so that the people can get vaccinated and return to their ordinary daily lives as soon as possible," Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, according to The Associated Press.
Ramping up the distribution of vaccines in Japan, he added, was an "unprecedented challenge."
Japan has lagged far behind the U.S. and other industrialized nations in terms of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The country has administered roughly 8.7 million vaccine doses, enough to fully vaccinate just about 3.5 percent of its citizens.
The country now faces challenges related to reaching herd immunity ahead of the Olympics, which are set to go on as planned in late July despite growing controversy over the decision to go forward with hosting.
A coalition of Japanese doctors last week called on the country's government to cancel the games.
“We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC [International Olympic Committee] that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games,” the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, a group of about 6,000 doctors, wrote in its letter.
“The medical institutions dealing with COVID-19 have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity,” the letter continued, adding: “Japan will bear the maximum responsibility.”