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Japan to take mix-and-match approach to COVID-19 booster shots

The Japanese government will take a mix-and-match approach to coronavirus vaccine booster shots, Noriko Horiuchi, minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, said Wednesday.

Japan will allow the simultaneous use of COVID-19 vaccines developed by U.S. drug giant Pfizer Inc. and U.S. biotechnology startup Moderna Inc. at vaccination venues, instead of its previous policy of limiting vaccines to one maker at each venue in principle, she said.

The government will also approve cross-vaccination with a different vaccine from the one used in the first two doses.

After the Moderna vaccine becomes available for booster shots in Japan in February at the earliest, people can choose which one they want to receive for their third shots at venues using both types of the vaccines.

For the first two doses, the Pfizer is offered at mass vaccination venues run by municipalities and individual hospitals, while the Moderna vaccine is used for inoculation at workplaces, large venues managed by the Self-Defense Forces and mass vaccination sites run by prefectures.

By eliminating the distinction, the government aims to accelerate vaccinations.

“From the standpoint of improving our vaccination system, we will make it possible to handle multiple types of vaccines,” Horiuchi told reporters.

She also said 37 million additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be delivered to prefectures from December to February next year for third shots, on top of 4.12 million doses that are being distributed.

The total 41.12 million doses will be used for vaccinations by March next year.

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