AP Interview: Japan minister urges young to get vaccinated

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Japan Vaccine Minister AP Interview (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Japan Vaccine Minister AP Interview (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

As Olympics host Tokyo saw another record number of coronavirus cases Wednesday, Japan’s vaccination minister said the speed of the country's inoculation campaign is less urgent than getting shots to young people, who some health experts are blaming for the current surge in infections.

Vaccination Minister Taro Kono told The Associated Press that Japan is “overshooting” its goal of a million shots a day, so “speed doesn't matter anymore.” Japan is averaging about 10 million shots a week after a late start.

"Even if we slow down a little bit, I’m OK. Rather we need to reach out to the younger people, so that they would feel that it’s necessary for them to get vaccinated,” Kono said, speaking in English during an interview in his office.

Many in Japan fear that the tens of thousands of visitors allowed special entry for the Olympics will cause more huge spikes in cases or a new variant of the coronavirus.

Tokyo reported 3,177 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, an all-time high for the city and the first time it exceeded 3,000 infections in a day. The new cases exceeded the earlier record of 2,848 set Tuesday and bring the total for the Japanese capital to 206,745 since the pandemic began early last year.

Japan has so far kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries. But its vaccination campaign started very late in comparison to other large economies, and there is fear that rising cases could overwhelm hospitals.

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