Promote swift supply and spread information about vaccinations

Inoculations with new vaccines tailored to the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus have started. The central and local governments must take all possible steps to supply the vaccine so that they will reach vaccination sites without delays.

The new vaccines are intended for people aged 12 or older who have already received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Compared to the conventional type of vaccines, the new ones are more effective against the omicron variant, and are expected to have a certain level of success against the BA.5 subvariant currently prevalent in Japan.

Among the elderly, who are at high risk of developing serious symptoms, and medical care workers, vaccinations have begun for those who have not yet received a fourth dose. Eligibility for the new vaccines will be expanded to other people in due course.

Last year, procurement and delivery of the conventional vaccines did not go as smoothly as expected, leading to a delay in the inoculation schedule.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said that the new vaccines “are expected to be imported by the end of next month for all who are eligible.” First of all, it is important to secure the necessary quantities and deliver them promptly to the field.

It is also necessary to ensure that there are enough people to administer the vaccines so that the system does not once again become dysfunctional.

For the time being, the conventional and new vaccines will coexist, and some people may be at a loss as to which vaccine to receive.

Many people under the age of 60 who have not yet received their third or fourth doses are not expected to switch to the new vaccines until mid-October or later.

Although the seventh wave of infections has passed its peak, the number of new cases per day is not at a low level. Conventional vaccines also have a degree of effectiveness, and some people may want to choose the one that can be administered sooner.

Each local government must provide detailed information on when the new vaccines will be available and how vaccination vouchers will be distributed. They should respond carefully to questions from residents so that eligible people can choose the appropriate vaccine.

In order to further promote vaccination, it is necessary to explain its significance once again. The number of young people receiving a third dose has not increased notably. The expected benefits, such as avoiding serious illness and reducing the aftereffects of infection, should be fully conveyed to the public.

As to the global COVID-19 pandemic, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said “the end is in sight.”

At the same time, he called for continued vaccinations and other measures, saying that relaxing efforts now would increase the possibility of outbreaks of new variants and other risks.

While it is important to prepare for the end of the pandemic, measures must not be relaxed. This winter, there is concern that an eighth wave of COVID-19 and a surge of seasonal influenza may come simultaneously. Vigilance must be maintained.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2022)