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Japan considering allowing pharmacists to administer Covid-19 vaccines

People wearing face masks walk on the street in Tokyo, last year (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi/IANS)

In a bid to step up the country's slow inoculation process, Japan could consider allowing pharmacists to administer the Covid-19 vaccines, the country's minister in charge of the vaccinations said Tuesday.

The government will study such an option after seeing whether the addition of dentists will be enough to mitigate the dearth of doctors and nurses who deliver the vaccines, Kyodo News quoted cabinet minister Taro Kono as saying at a press conference today.

The news agency reported that only around three percent of Japan's population of 126 million has received at least one shot of vaccine after its vaccination campaign for health care workers started in February and for the elderly population of about 36 million in mid-April.

It said that appointments for inoculations of the elderly at state-run large-scale vaccination centers, slated to open on May 24 in central Tokyo and Osaka, were filled fast after the Defense Ministry made online bookings available Monday.

At present, local cities, towns and villages in Japan are in charge of the inoculation campaign.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has set a target of completing vaccinations of the elderly by the end of July.

Last Friday, the Japanese government decided to expand its Covid-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo and other areas to three more prefectures as infections continued to surge ahead of the capital's hosting of the Summer Olympics.

Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima will be under tougher restrictions, including a ban on restaurants serving alcohol till May 31, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a task force meeting.