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The Asahi Shimbun
By MIREI JINGUJI/ Staff Writer
September 20, 2022 at 17:50 JST
A person receives a vaccine targeting the Omicron coronavirus variant in Tokyo’s Minato Ward on Sept. 20. (Takeshi Iwashita)
Japan began administering new COVID-19 shots on Sept. 20 that target the Omicron variant to prepare for a possible surge in infections this winter.
Those 60 and older, along with medical workers who have not received their fourth doses, are eligible for the time being.
A mass vaccination site in Tokyo’s Minato Ward began administering the vaccines for elderly people and medical workers from the morning of Sept. 20.
Masahiko Miura, 76, who received the booster on the day, said he had planned to get the fourth dose of the existing vaccine designed to fight the original novel coronavirus strain on Sept. 2.
However, Miura changed his reservation after seeing news about the Omicron-targeting vaccines being brought forward.
“As the Omicron strain is spreading, I thought I should get the vaccine against it and applied for the vaccine right away,” he said.
The program eligibility will be expanded from mid-October to those aged 12 or older who have been vaccinated at least twice.
The boosters are so-called “bivalent vaccines,” which are designed to defend against both the original novel coronavirus strain and the BA.1 Omicron subvariant.
The Omicron booster made by Pfizer Inc. can be administered to people 12 and older, while Moderna Inc.’s Omicron booster is authorized for those 18 and older.
In the past two years, the country faced major outbreaks from the end of the year to the beginning of the new year.
This winter, there are concerns about coronavirus and seasonal influenza infections occurring at the same time.
“I think the eighth and ninth waves of infections will come, so I want to prevent myself from getting infected so I won’t pass the virus to others,” Miura said.
The government had initially planned to start the inoculation campaign in mid-October but moved up its timetable after securing enough vaccines. It started to roll the vaccines out through local governments.
The central government is working to ensure those who want the vaccines will be inoculated by the end of the year.
People in Japan must be at least five months from their most recent shot to get the boosters. The interval is shorter in Europe and the United States, which is two to three months.
The Japanese health ministry is considering shortening the period and said it will decide by late October.
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