Ambiguities that could lead to confusion a concerning point

The fourth round of vaccinations, or the second round of booster shots, against the novel coronavirus is about to begin. The government has also presented assessment that people can remove their masks outdoors. The government needs to make efforts to provide detailed explanations and disseminate information so that there will be no confusion.

The fourth dose will only be provided to people who are 60 years of age or older or people at least 18 years old who have a pre-existing condition, when at least five months have passed since their third dose. Those under 60 and in good health are not eligible for a fourth vaccination even if they wish to receive it.

This is because overseas studies have shown that a fourth dose of vaccine can prevent serious illness in people 60 or older but was not effective enough for young people.

Many people may feel confused because this is a significant departure from the previous policy of recommending that a wide range of age groups be vaccinated. The concern is that young people may mistakenly think that a booster shot is ineffective and refrain from getting it.

It is important for the government to explain to the public in an easy-to-understand manner the difference in expected effect between the third and fourth rounds of COVID-19 vaccinations and the reasons for this difference.

Inoculation of people with pre-existing conditions is also an issue. The targeted conditions cover a wide range including respiratory disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer. Since local governments are not aware of every resident who has a pre-existing condition, self-reporting will be the rule, in principle.

The method differs from one local government to another, with some sending vaccination vouchers to those who apply for them, and others sending them to everyone over the age of 18, with only those who qualify receiving the vaccination.

Each local government must thoroughly inform the public and establish a system to ensure that those who wish to receive a vaccination are able to do so.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has become prolonged, the government has announced its official view on the wearing of masks. It said mask-wearing is not necessary when there is 2 meters of distance outdoors between people or when there is almost no conversation.

The government said in situations where there is enough distance and no conversation, it is not necessary to wear masks even indoors. The policy is not to uniformly require the wearing of masks at daycare centers, even if there is an infected person.

As summer is approaching, it is important to remove masks to prevent heat stroke if the situation requires it. However, the criteria for determining which situations do not require masks vary from person to person.

The government has said that it is not necessary to wear a mask when running outdoors or walking to work, but many cases in real life are difficult to judge.

The government is urged to provide more specific rules for wearing and not wearing masks so that people do not feel uncomfortable or cause trouble by not wearing masks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 21, 2022)