Ministry panel OKs plan to limit 4th COVID-19 shots to elderly

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A panel of the health ministry on Monday approved a plan to limit the fourth round of COVID-19 vaccinations mainly to elderly people.

The required interval from the previous coronavirus vaccine shot will be shortened to five months from the current six months. This will also apply to the interval between the third and fourth shots.

Following the changes, Japan will revise documents attached to COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc., which will be used in the fourth round. The fourth doses are expected to become available as early as the end of May.

The government plans to limit the fourth doses to people aged 60 or over and people with preexisting conditions.

Based on research data and overseas vaccination situations, the ministry panel confirmed the safety and a certain level of effectiveness of the fourth shots.

In March, the ministry kicked off discussions on whether to start the fourth round.

As the effectiveness of a third COVID-19 shot against the omicron variant tends to decrease after a while, the ministry has been urging local governments to finish preparations by late May to administer the fourth round.