October eyed for rollout of omicron COVID booster

Courtesy of the NIID.
The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is seen in an electron micrograph.

New booster vaccines designed to target the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus are expected to be available from mid-October, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has announced.

The ministry’s COVID-19 subcommittee has also approved a decision to urge parents to get children aged 5-11 vaccinated with booster shots.

The new boosters will be available to people who have received two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine under the ministry’s plan, which was decided Monday.

Developed by U.S. pharmaceutical firms Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., the new shots are so-called bivalent vaccines that contain components used in earlier vaccines and the BA.1 omicron subvariant.

If the new vaccines gain approval, imports will start as early as September.

According to the ministry, the government will be able to secure the necessary amount of doses as the provision of omicron-targeting vaccines is included in the contracts signed with the companies.

The ministry will encourage people across all generations to receive the new boosters to increase the percentage of people who are protected against COVID-19 and to prevent elderly people from becoming seriously ill if they get infected.

The World Health Organization has also indicated that the new vaccines will be beneficial in the fight against the pandemic.

Details about the rollout of the new boosters will be worked out in the near future.

Parents are currently “obliged to make an effort” to get children aged 12 or older vaccinated under the Preventive Vaccination Law, but the shots are not mandatory.

The COVID-19 subcommittee decided Monday that the “obligation to make an effort” should also apply to children aged 5-11 because there is enough data on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, and also because of the surge in coronavirus cases among children.

The measure is likely to take effect in early September.