US military makes vaccine progress in Japan, South Korea amid coronavirus resurgence
By JOSEPH DITZLER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 7, 2021
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U.S. Forces Korea and three military commands in Japan have announced plans to expand their vaccination programs to anyone 18 and older who is eligible in the military health care system.
Meanwhile, Japan’s second most populous prefecture on Wednesday reported its highest one-day total of new coronavirus patients. Osaka prefecture announced another 878 newly infected people, exceeding the previous one-day record, 719, set Tuesday, according to public broadcaster NHK and prefectural data.
In Tokyo, 555 people tested positive for the virus Wednesday, NHK reported. That’s the city’s highest one-day count since a 2 ½-month-long state of emergency there ended March 21. It’s also the highest one-day total since 695 tested positive Feb. 6, according to metro government data.
By contrast, only the Marine Corps on Okinawa as of 6 p.m. Wednesday had reported any new cases of COVID-19, the coronavirus respiratory disease, within the U.S. military in Japan.
The Marines on Okinawa had four new COVID-19 patients on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a Facebook post by Marine Corps Installations Pacific: two at Camp Hansen and one each at Camps Courtney and Kinser.
The fifth, at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, tested positive for the virus after having contact with another infected person, according to a base Facebook post. The new patient was not initially quarantined but was isolated after being tested.
Osaka, neighboring Hyogo prefecture and Miyagi prefecture in northeast Japan are under a renewed state of emergency as the new case numbers there are rising. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told NHK she too is considering emergency measures if the tide of new infections continues to rise.
Most U.S. military commanders have put Osaka off-limits as a leave and liberty destination for the people on their installations.
“Japan, unfortunately, is experiencing an uptick in COVID cases,” Capt. Manning Montagnet, commander of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, southeast of Tokyo, said on American Forces Network Radio on Wednesday. “In fact, 42 of the nation’s 47 prefectures are experiencing increases in daily cases.”
Japan and South Korea lag behind the U.S. in vaccinating their populations against COVID-19, but U.S. commands in those countries are making progress.
USFK announced that starting Thursday it will offer the one-shot Johnson & Johnson, or Janssen, vaccine to anyone 18 and older and eligible in the U.S. military health care system. USFK has about 28,500 service members on the peninsula.
On Okinawa, the Air Force and Navy also called Wednesday for any eligible person 18 and older to come and get vaccinated.
The Kadena Air Base medical clinic will administer the two-shot Moderna vaccine on Thursday and Friday to all personnel, uniformed and civilian, who live, work or receive their medical care on the installation, according to a base Facebook post.
Inoculations will be given at the Risner Gym basketball courts at Kadena. Appointments must be booked online at https://bit.ly/3uvs5Sm.
Likewise, Naval Hospital Okinawa at Camp Foster is offering inoculations to eligible 18-year-olds and older, according to a news release. Appointments are booked online at https://bit.ly/31QHUab.
The hospital has already vaccinated tens of thousands of people, according to its commander, Capt. David Krulak. The U.S. population on Okinawa is nearly 80,000.
“Anybody who can possibly get care either at the 18th Med Group at Kadena or at the hospital here is welcome to come to USNHO and get their vaccine,” Krulak said in a Facebook video posted Wednesday.
The hospital is dispensing the Moderna vaccine but expects to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week, he said.