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Coronavirus

Central Japan City Favored Pharmacy Chain Chief in Vaccination

TOKYO — A city in central Japan is facing criticism for secretly offering a reservation for a COVID-19 vaccination to a major pharmacy chain’s executive when hundreds of thousands of elderly people elsewhere in Japan struggled to make their reservations.

The vice mayor of Nishio, Yoshihide Kondo, made reservations for the jabs for Hirokazu Sugiura, the chairman of Sugi Holdings Co. that operates over 1,400 drugstores in Japan, and his wife, in return for the company’s “contributions” to the municipality.

City officials said Tuesday they made the reservations after repeated requests from the company and apologized after the deal surfaced in the regional Chunichi newspaper. They said the reservations were canceled and the Sugiuras did not received the shots.

Under pressure to speed up Japan’s slow vaccine rollout, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to deliver two doses for 36 million elderly people by the end of July. Japan has fully inoculated only about 1% of its population so far.

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