Japan steps up vaccination effort to key daily rate of 1 mln

TOKYO, June 23 (Reuters) - Japan’s daily rate of coronavirus vaccinations has reached a crucial milestone of 1 million, government data showed on Wednesday, as authorities scramble to recover lost time in inoculating the population.

The figure is a critical threshold set by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to ensure that the nation’s sizeable elderly population is covered by the end of July, and all adults by November.

As the campaign has gained momentum, with vaccination sites opening at workplaces on Monday, the latest cabinet office figures show 1,013,061 doses injected on June 14, and just under 1 million on each of the three subsequent days.

Just 18% of a population of 125 million has got at least one dose, a Reuters tracker here shows, for the lowest level among major economies, with one month remaining until the start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, an event delayed by the pandemic.

The vaccination campaign began in mid-February, trailing most large economies, and initially hampered by scarce supplies of imported doses. But even as shipments increased, shortages of medical staff and logistics hurdles became acute.

To speed things up, the government opened massive vaccination centres operated by the defence ministry and relaxed rules on recipients and those allowed to inject them.

Reporting by Rocky Swift in Tokyo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez