TOKYO: A Japanese health ministry panel approved a plan Wednesday to vaccinate children aged 5-11 against COVID-19 for free.
On Friday, the ministry approved Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children. The vaccine will be imported to Japan in February and inoculations will begin as early as March.
The panel failed on Wednesday to reach a conclusion on whether to impose on guardians an obligation to make an effort to vaccinate such children against COVID-19. It will meet again next month to discuss the matter.
People aged 12 and over, with the exception of expectant mothers, are currently obliged to make an effort to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccinations are not mandatory and people can receive shots free of charge.
Hiroyuki Moriuchi, a member of the Japan Pediatric Society and professor at Nagasaki University, told the panel that vaccinating children will be meaningful.
But Moriuchi added that vaccinations may not prevent infections among children at a time when the omicron variant is dominant. “It’s important for adults around children to be vaccinated” in order to protect children, he said.
Some panel members were negative about setting such a no-penalty obligation to vaccinate children, saying they doubt whether this will help contain COVID-19.
Others called for such an obligation, saying the measure would help build an environment in which it would be easier for parents to take time off work to get their children vaccinated.