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Japan to move up 3rd COVID-19 vaccine shots where possible

Japan's rollout of third vaccine shots kicked off on Wednesday. (AFP)
Japan's rollout of third vaccine shots kicked off on Wednesday. (AFP)
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05 Dec 2021 01:12:36 GMT9
05 Dec 2021 01:12:36 GMT9

TOKYO: The Japanese government will shorten the required interval between second and third shots of novel coronavirus vaccines where possible, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said Sunday.

“We will bring forward (third shots) where possible while considering the capacity of local governments,” Kihara said on a television program.

In Japan, third COVID-19 vaccine shots need to wait at least eight months after second shots in principle. The interval can be shortened to six months only if an infection cluster hits medical institutions or elderly care facilities.

The government is believed to allow more exceptions to the eight-month principle due to the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

On concerns that bringing forward third shots may cause a shortage of vaccine supplies, Kihara said the government will add the vaccine made by U.S. biotechnology startup Moderna Inc. to the booster shot program if the vaccine is approved for such use and can be used for mix-and-match inoculations together with the vaccine of U.S. drug giant Pfizer Inc.

“It is quite possible” that the government will give priority to citizens at high risk of developing severe symptoms in administering booster shots, Kihara said. “We need to hold serious discussions,” he added.

Japan’s rollout of third vaccine shots kicked off on Wednesday, starting with medical workers, the first priority group in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination program, which began in February. The government planned to expand the third round of vaccinations to cover elderly people and those with underlying conditions who were inoculated twice at least eight months earlier in principle.

Since infections with the omicron variant were confirmed, however, the United States and European countries have accelerated efforts to give booster shots.

Calls for quicker administration of booster shots have increased in Japan. Shinji Hirai, president of the National Governors’ Association, has stressed the need to expand flexibly the scope of citizens who are permitted to receive third shots with a shorter interval.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno suggested Wednesday that the government will consider a quicker rollout.

JIJI Press

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