Japan has begun COVID-19 vaccinations for its sizable elderly population, with imported doses still in short supply and the pace unlikely to stop a fourth wave of infection.
Shots for people aged 65 and above began at some 120 sites across the country on Monday, using Pfizer Inc's vaccine made in Europe and delivered to the regions in the past week.
Just 2810 people in Tokyo are expected to get a shot from the first batch, while most regions will receive 1000 doses or fewer, according to a health ministry schedule.
Japan has a rapidly ageing population totalling 126 million.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato reiterated the projection enough vaccines could be secured for Japan's 36 million people over the age of 65 by the end of June.
"If imports from the EU go smoothly, I understand the country is expected to distribute vaccines that can be administered to all of the elderly," Kato said.
Tokyo also began on Monday a month-long period of quasi-emergency measures to blunt a fourth wave of contagion driven by virulent mutant strains and with the start of the Olympics just over 100 days away.
Japan was among the last major economies to begin COVID-19 inoculations when it started in mid-February.
Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccines, has defended the pace, saying authorities wanted time to prepare.
"After tomorrow, we will inform the prefectures how much we can distribute, and they will decide how much to allocate to each municipality," Kono said on national broadcaster NHK on Sunday.
Japan is dependent on Pfizer's vaccine as the only COVID-19 shot approved by domestic regulators.
The pace of shots is likely to accelerate in May as a greater number of imports from the company's facilities in Europe is due to arrive.
Australian Associated Press
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