TOKYO - Japan is suspending approval for companies to inoculate staff amid concerns that an increase in such applications will hamper smooth delivery of vaccines, a government minister said on Wednesday.
"We would like to suspend accepting new applications, given that we are already reaching the maximum capacity to distribute the vaccines," vaccine minister Taro Kono told a news conference.
The government has been accepting applications from companies and local governments to administer Moderna vaccines in workplaces and at mass vaccination centres.
"I believe we've come to the next crucial stage of ensuring the smooth distribution of vaccines," following issues in securing and administering them, Kono said.
Japan's vaccination drive, which got off to a slow start in mid-February, has seen the pace pick up in recent weeks. Workplace vaccination drives started on Monday.
Japan hit a target set by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to vaccinate one million people a day on Wednesday. Suga has said he hopes to see the elderly vaccinated by the end of July, and all adults by November.
So far about 18% of a population of 125 million has got at least one dose, a Reuters tracker shows. The figure is the lowest level among major economies, with one month remaining until the start of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Giles Elgood) ((Sakura.Murakami@thomsonreuters.com;))