TOKYO: An expert panel of Japan’s health ministry adopted a plan Friday to administer fifth shots of COVID-19 vaccines mainly to elderly people starting as early as this autumn.
The fifth shots will use improved versions of vaccines targeting omicron variants of the coronavirus that are now under development by companies such as Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.
The ministry panel also decided to expand the scope of people eligible for fourth shots to include all medical and elderly care workers aged 18 or over.
After the expansion, some eight million people will newly become eligible for fourth shots under a publicly funded vaccination program.
New COVID-19 cases are surging in Japan due to the spread of the BA. 5 omicron subvariant.
In May, the country started administering fourth shots mainly to people aged 60 or over.
The effects of fourth shots are expected to weaken around autumn, and the efficacy of existing vaccines is lower against omicron than against other variants.