Japan to expand booster vaccination sites to include workplaces, starting in March

Reuters file photo
A vial labelled with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is seen in this illustration picture taken in March.

COVID-19 vaccination sites for booster shots will include workplaces and universities, with inoculations beginning at such places around March, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. Under the government’s original plan, people were supposed to get vaccines in the municipality where they live.

To prepare for a possible sixth wave of the pandemic, the government also plans to publish monthly information on the number of beds secured and occupied for COVID-19 patients at each medical institution, starting in December, to make it possible for people concerned to keep tabs on the latest situation.

According to government sources, these policies will be included in the government’s comprehensive measures for a sixth wave, which will be decided Friday.

The government has signed contracts with manufacturers to supply about 320 million doses of vaccines for next year, with the expectation that enough doses will be secured for those who want to receive a third dose.

Regarding the booster vaccination for people who received two doses at their workplaces or universities, the government had announced that they were expected to be inoculated in the municipality they reside in. However, it is changing course to expand the number of sites in order to accelerate the rollout.

The draft of comprehensive measures states that the government plans to “allow such entities that joined the [two-dose] vaccination program to participate in providing booster shots from around March.”

The Health Science Council of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to discuss the types of vaccines to be used for the third doses in mid-November. Topics are expected to include whether to allow a person to receive a third dose made by a different manufacturer from the first and second doses.

Generally, a third dose should be given at least about eight months after the second dose. Medical workers, who started receiving their first doses in February this year, will be vaccinated from December, and booster vaccinations for the elderly will start in January. The plan is for both groups to receive vaccines made by Pfizer.

As for strengthening the medical system, the government aims to increase the occupancy rate for hospital beds to 80% at the peak of another outbreak, to do better than the situation seen during the fifth wave of infections this summer. At that time, many hospital beds secured for COVID-19 patients were not actually used.

The draft mentions the necessity of “establishing a system that enables medical institutions and emergency operation headquarters to share information on the number of beds secured and occupied in their prefectures on a daily basis.” As a condition to receive subsidies, medical institutions will be required to share the latest information about the availability of their beds in the government system called G-MIS.

The draft also states that the government will “compile the results of online medical counseling and house visits by doctors, and publish them by region,” in order to prevent patients staying at home from becoming seriously ill.