October 24, 2021

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Osaka eases COVID-19 vaccine reservation requirement to speed up inoculations ahead of next wave

Osaka Prefecture has started offering COVID-19 vaccines without reservations at two locations, aiming to speed up inoculations among younger people in particular before the possible sixth wave, at a time when its daily infection numbers have been greater than Tokyo’s.

Starting Saturday, vaccine shots became available to prefectural residents 16 years old and older without reservations at My Dome Osaka in the city of Osaka between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. until Oct. 31. They need to bring only their vaccine tickets and a form of identification.

Vaccines without reservations are also being offered as of Wednesday at the new Osaka Prefectural Government annex, beside Osaka Castle Park.

Although infections have been declining in both Tokyo and Osaka, the daily tally in Osaka started to exceed that of Tokyo late last month.

On Sunday, Osaka recorded 105 new cases, a decrease of 31 compared to a week before, and two COVID-19 linked deaths. But the nation’s capital, which has a population of nearly 14 million compared to Osaka’s 8.8 million, had only 60 cases the same day, the lowest this year, although it confirmed seven deaths among COVID-19 patients.

The reasons for the differences between Tokyo and Osaka were not entirely clear. But Osaka officials cited the need to get more younger people vaccinated as quickly as possible as they constitute a larger percentage of recent new infections. Tokyo began a similar campaign at the end of August, offering younger people vaccine shots without reservations at a site in Shibuya.

The decision to open up two centers for drop-in vaccinations came after the prefectural government annex vaccination center was getting only about 1,000 people a day — only 10% of what it could handle under the system that required prior reservations. Prefectural officials have blamed the light turnout on communication problems with residents and operational problems with the reservation system.

Data compiled by NHK showed that as of Oct. 3, 66% of prefectural residents had received at least one vaccine shot and 56.3% had gotten both. The same data shows that 70.3% of all Tokyo residents had received their first vaccination and 61.5% had been vaccinated twice.

Osaka is anxious to rapidly increase the number of vaccinations now out of concern for the next wave, the sixth wave of infections.

“We need to make preparations for a sixth wave, at year’s end, under the assumption that it will come,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said at a meeting of the prefectural coronavirus task force late last month.

On Sept. 30, the prefectural government announced the completion of a large-scale facility for asymptomatic or mildly ill patients with 500 beds at Intex Osaka in the city’s waterfront district. The facility is yet to accept patients as infections are declining, but plans are to increase the number of beds to 1,000 before the predicted sixth wave arrives.

Last month, Osaka Prefecture became the first local government in the country to offer an antibody cocktail treatment to a person self-isolating at home after the health ministry decided to approve giving the treatment outside hospitals.

Osaka has asked about 100 hospitals and 1,400 clinics in the prefecture that do not accept COVID-19 inpatients to offer the cocktail therapy — aimed at preventing severe symptoms — and is encouraging it to be administered at home as a way to ease the burden on local hospitals and medical centers when the next wave of infections hits.

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