Japan universities to start booster vaccinations

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Universities will fully start administering third COVID-19 vaccine shots to students and staff later this month, and the education ministry is calling on more universities to consider such vaccinations.

On Monday, Hiroshima University became the first national university in the country to start giving booster shots. Initially, the university in Hiroshima Prefecture planned to start the program on March 1, but moved up the schedule in response to the government’s policy of providing third shots early.

“I received it early because I thought it’s best to prevent the spread of infection by having as many people as possible get vaccinated,” 23-year-old graduate student Ryota Koike said.

Kindai University in Osaka Prefecture will start giving booster shots on Feb. 28, giving priority to students and staff members who will graduate or retire in March.

Tohoku University in Miyagi Prefecture will also start booster vaccinations on Feb. 28.

The University of Tokyo will begin providing booster shots on March. 1, to be followed by Keio University in Tokyo and Osaka University in late March and Waseda University, also in Tokyo, in mid-April.

COVID-19 vaccinations at universities started last June with 364 universities, junior colleges and technical colleges administering first and second shots to a total of 1.55 million people, including students, staff and local residents.

Of them, however, only 176 universities, or less than half, have applied to administer booster shots, according to the ministry.

Some universities have no plans to give booster shots, citing difficulty due to many events, such as graduation ceremonies at this time of year, and progress in inoculations by local municipalities.

“We don’t know how many people will receive [booster shots],” an official at Nippon Sport Science University in Tokyo said. “Some students have returned to their hometowns after the second semester ended.”

An official at Nihon University said that it does not have any plans to administer booster shots. “The university hospital is busy dealing with COVID-19 patients and it is difficult to secure medical staff necessary for vaccinations,” the official said.