Japan to allow COVID-19 booster shots six months after second dose

The government plans to allow booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines to be administered six months after an individual has received a second dose, sources familiar with the matter said Monday.

The health ministry has set an eight-month interval between second and third shots, but local governments will be able to shorten the period by two months if they deem it necessary.

Booster shots have proven to be effective in preventing the decline of vaccine protection seen over time, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has vowed to begin administering them within the year, starting with medical personnel.

Individuals age 18 and older will be eligible, with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to give further consideration to expanding coverage to children between ages 12 and 17. Those with pre-existing conditions or working in high-risk professions will be especially encouraged to get booster shots.

Only messenger RNA vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. will be administered, regardless of the type individuals received as first and second doses. The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only one approved by the health ministry for third shots.

According to the government, more than 75% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated, a higher rate than most other members of the Group of Seven nations, despite the country getting off to a slow start. More than 78% have received at least one shot.

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