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Local governments in Japan preparing for COVID-19 booster shots

Local governments are speeding up preparations for a third round of coronavirus vaccinations, slated to start in December.

While the booster shots will likely be given first to medical professionals, who received their first and second doses first in the country’s vaccine rollout, local governments are improving the ways to run their inoculation programs, after some areas faced confusion over vaccination appointments and other issues.

In Nagoya in April, vaccination tickets were sent to some 600,000 older residents all at once. The result was that ward offices in the city were swamped with residents complaining that they were unable to make reservations.

For the booster shots, the city will send vaccination tickets in stages to residents eight months after their received their second shots.

With the vaccination of older people likely to be in full swing in February next year and later, a Nagoya official said, “We don’t expect to see a situation like that in April.”

From February, Kobe plans to expand its mass vaccination venues, which have been scaled down recently.

The capital of Hyogo Prefecture will try to avoid confusion by introducing a new system in which the city will decide the date, time and vaccination venue for older residents.

Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, known for the so-called Nerima model, in which family doctors play a major role in vaccinations, has announced an upgraded version of the program. Under the revamped program, the ward office will increase the number of group vaccination sites to 16 from 12 and expand vaccinations to nights and weekends.

The national government has said that the booster shots should be given eight months after the second shots in principle. But it also allows the interval to be shortened to six months depending on the infection situation in each area.

Many local governments are making their preparations for COVID-19 booster shots based on the government policy.

Among them is Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, which will send vaccination tickets first to medical workers and residents of nursing homes.

Breakthrough infections occurred at a facility in the ward this summer, worrying its mayor, Nobuto Hosaka.

Wary of a possible sixth wave of infections, Hosaka has said that residents of facilities for the elderly should receive their third shots early. He is planning to ask the ministry to allow the interval to be reduced for such people.

In February and March, when the third round of vaccinations are expected to be in full swing, personnel changes will take place at local governments and planned vaccination venues will be used for graduation ceremonies, so people to be involved in the inoculation program will be extremely busy, Akita Gov. Norihisa Satake has warned.

He urged the central government to draw up a solid vaccine supply program to avoid confusion.

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