Infection cluster history to determine priority for 3rd doses of COVID vaccine

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A box of vaccines arrives at a distribution center in Osaka Prefecture on Monday.

The government plans to allow the staff and users of certain medical or elderly facilities to receive a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine only six months after their second dose, rather than waiting the usual eight months, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The exception will apply to facilities that suffered COVID-19 infection clusters in the past.

The government has drawn up criteria to strictly limit cases in which the interval between the second and third doses can be shortened to six months, and plans to announce the plan soon.

This priority status will also apply to users and employees of several medical institutions within the same jurisdiction as a health center where infection clusters have occurred.

The government will ask municipalities to draw up a detailed plan and to consult with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The ministry announced on Nov. 15 that the third dose would be given to people aged 18 or older, who have completed their second dose more than eight months earlier in principle, but also said that the third dose can be given after a six-month interval in exceptional cases. That announcement drew a response from the National Governors’ Association and local governments, which demanded the ministry clarify the criteria for the exception.

Separately, the government will soon announce a scheme to deliver about 52 million doses of the vaccine for the third shot to be administered from April to June next year. Adding this to the doses already announced to be administered by the end of March, the government is expected to secure a total of about 94 million doses.