Large vaccination sites open in Tokyo, Osaka

The Japanese government is trying to speed up its vaccine rollout. Large-scale facilities have opened their doors in Tokyo and Osaka. Officials aim to inoculate the country's 36 million seniors by the end of July.

Vaccination at the two sites started Monday morning. The venues are operated by the Self-Defense Forces. The Tokyo facility will be administering 5,000 shots per day of the newly approved Moderna vaccine, while the one in Osaka will be giving out 2,500. The government says it hopes to double their combined capacity from next week.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide visited the Tokyo site. Suga said, "I watched SDF doctors, nurses and staff from the private sector working together and conducting inoculations very smoothly. I felt very reassured."

Japan's vaccination program started in February with health care workers before expanding to the elderly in April. So far, only 6 percent of people aged 65 or older have received at least one dose, lagging far behind other G7 countries.

Sports associations are cooperating with the vaccination rollout.

Tokyo's Kokugikan sumo arena was used on Monday to inoculate locals and retired wrestlers. After receiving their shots, senior citizens were able to rest near the ring in case they experienced any severe reactions.

Experts blame the current surge in cases on more infectious variants. The health ministry says 1,300 COVID-19 patients are in serious condition as of Monday.

Ten prefectures are currently under a coronavirus state of emergency, with Okinawa added on Sunday. The declaration for nine prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, is scheduled to end on May 31.

But with numbers still holding steady, officials are now considering extending it to the same date as Okinawa -- June 20.