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First sentence from this NHK news article,

東京都が、警察と消防の職員に行うワクチン接種は、会場の築地市場の跡地がオリンピック・パラリンピックの輸送車両の拠点となっていることから、大会の準備が本格化する前までしか使えず、1回目の接種を受けた全員が、この場所で2回目を受けられないことが分かりました。

I don't fully understand the nuance of 前まで here. How the meaning would change if 前 or まで is used alone instead? My take is that まで is used to emphasize 前, so「大会の準備が本格化する前までしか使えず」mean something like "(the vaccination site) can be only used even before Olympic preparations get serious, so..." Is that correct way to interpret 前まで?

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I think しか is complicating the situation.

本格化するまで使える sounds natural but 本格化するまでしか使えない is a bit awkward. In the former, 本格化する unambiguously marks the end of the period during which the vaccination site can be used. The latter also expects the part before まで to mark the end of the same period but, for some reason, the verb 本格化する doesn’t seem to meet this requirement as much as it does in 本格化するまで使える. This may be because the sentence, with a negative ending, shifts focus to the subsequent period during which the site cannot be used and 本格化する seems to mark the start of it, rather than the end of the earlier period during which the site can be used. To come to think of it, even in 本格化するまで使える the bound seems to be exclusive. In any case, 前 comes in to solve this problem by placing a new end point just before the point marked by 本格化する.

In contrast, a phrase with a noun like 6月までしか使えない sounds very natural. In this case, the bound is inclusive. I could not come up with a single example with a verb that sounded as natural.

本格化する前しか使えない would blur the end of the period.


[EDIT]

The awkwardness of 本格化するまでしか使えない may be simply because [しか + the negative of a verb] doesn't take another verb before it (unless the verb after しか is auxiliary する). Although まで nominalizes a verb in a sentence like 本格化するまでが大変だ, it may not be noun enough in this case. Being a clearer noun, 前 solves this problem, too.

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It seems to me that the phrase 前までしか in this sentence is practically equivalent to 前しか or までしか. So this phrase sounds a little awkward to me. It will be safe to say that 前 is used to emphasize まで, or, in other words, to avoid the misunderstanding of the context because almost all the Japanese do not know the exact schedule of 大会の準備が本格化する.

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