|Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Shigeyuki Goto speaks to reporters in Tokyo on Jan. 13, 2022. (Photo by= Kyodo)|
[Asia News = Reporter Reakkana] TOKYO: COVID-19 booster shots for Japan's general public will start sooner than initially scheduled amid a surge of new cases driven by the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the health minister said Thursday, Kyodo reported. The government will shorten by one month the interval between the second and third vaccination shots for people aged 18 to 64 from the current eight months, and by one month for those over 64 to six months in principle, Shigeyuki Goto told reporters.
The change is likely to present municipal governments, which are responsible for carrying out the inoculation drive, with the daunting task of executing it, however, including sending out vaccine tickets to residents in a timely manner. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on a TV program on Thursday that the government will strive to shorten the booster shot interval for people aged 18 to 64 by another month to six months, if at all possible.
While protection against the virus is likely to fade over time, three doses of mRNA vaccines would provide immunity against Omicron, according to researchers and vaccine makers. The highly mutated new variant has become the dominant strain in the United States and elsewhere after it was reported by South Africa last November.