Booster rollout begins for healthcare workers

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
A medical worker receives a COVID-19 booster shot at Tokyo Medical Center in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday

The rollout of COVID-19 booster shots began nationwide on Wednesday morning with medical workers first in line to receive their third vaccine jab.

Senior citizens will be able to start receiving booster shots from next month.

As a general rule, people will be able to receive a third vaccine dose if at least eight months have passed since their second dose, and booster shots will be offered to everyone over the age of 18.

On Wednesday morning, about 18 doctors and nurses at Tokyo Medical Center in Meguro Ward waited in line to receive their third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“It is a crucial step that will bring peace of mind to patients who are receiving treatment and their family members,” said Kazuhiro Araki, the director of the facility.

“Winter has come and people are socializing more,” a nurse said. “The booster shot is preparation for a possible sixth wave.”

In Japan, inoculations with the Pfizer Inc. vaccine started in February, followed by the Moderna Inc. vaccine in May and AstraZeneca PLC.’s in August.

Vaccine efficacy diminishes over time, with the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine reportedly falling to about 50% in six months.

For people aged 60 or older, protection against severe symptoms also decreases over time, so the government is urging elderly people and patients with weak immune systems to get booster shots.

For the time being, the Pfizer vaccine will be administered in the booster campaign. In the future, the Moderna vaccine is expected to be administered at workplaces, among other locations.

People who had initially received Moderna shots will be able to receive Pfizer boosters and vice versa.