Japan government to promote booster shots among younger generations

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A student receives a shot of novel coronavirus vaccine at Higashi Nippon International University in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, in March.

In a new effort to prevent a resurgence of the novel coronavirus, the government has decided to help younger people receive a third dose of vaccine.

The government is considering providing financial support to universities and other institutions that are working toward the vaccination of students. Perks are also being mulled for people who have gotten all three rounds.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was expected to make an announcement on these measures as early as Thursday.

According to the Cabinet Secretariat, 84% of people aged 65 and older had received a third dose as of Wednesday. However, the vaccination rate for the entire population was only 44%, indicating that booster shots are not proceeding among younger generations.

More than 80% of Tokyo residents aged 70 and older had been vaccinated three times as of Tuesday, the Tokyo metropolitan government said. This compared to just 7% among residents aged 12 to 19, and 26% for those in their 20s.

Tokyo’s vaccination rate for residents in their 50s was 56%, while that for people in their 60s was 74%.

The government is considering subsidizing transportation costs for universities and other institutions that transport students by bus and other means to and from mass vaccination sites set up by local governments. The government expects to spend more than ¥1 billion to accelerate vaccinations among students at universities that do not offer on-site inoculations.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has asked prefectural governments to give reservation slots that have gone unfilled at mass vaccination sites to corporations and universities.

The government may also subsidize discounts on admission fees for exhibitions, concerts and sports events, if visitors to these events present certificates proving they have received three doses.

4th shot for elderly

The government is making arrangements to start the administration of fourth doses, giving priority to elderly people at higher risk of developing severe symptoms, government sources said.

The official decision on the matter will be based on the opinion of experts at a subcommittee of the ministry.

Sufficient knowledge and information about the efficacy and necessity of a fourth shot has not been acquired. The government, however, hopes it will be effective for elderly people, who are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms.

The government plans to shorten the interval between third and fourth shots, reducing it from six months to four, and starting inoculations at local governments that have made necessary preparations as early as May. The schedule was modeled on such countries as the United States, where fourth inoculations have started at an interval of four months for people aged 50 and older.

The government will consider the timing of vaccinations for working generations after assessing the state of outbreaks and the characteristics of new variants.