TOKYO (AP) – Japan on Wednesday began offering booster vaccines for the coronavirus to healthcare workers amid growing concerns over a new variant of the virus that has already been detected in the country.
The initial vaccination campaign in Japan began in mid-February, and some healthcare workers who received injections more than nine months ago are now looking to get additional protection against the next possible wave of infections – especially after a new variant known as omicron, which was the first. reported in South Africa last week, was discovered in Japan on Tuesday.
At the Tokyo Medical Center, a group of nurses and doctors were given revaccinations.
“This is an important first step for our patients and their families to be treated with a sense of security,” said hospital director Kazuhiro Araki.
While the vaccine’s effectiveness against the new variant is still being studied, booster vaccinations are important because vaccines remain effective against other strains of the virus, including delta, which have put serious pressure on Japan’s health systems this summer, Araki said.
In principle, those who received the second shot eight months ago are eligible for the third shot to prevent breakthrough infections. Eligibility could be reduced to six months if infections recur, officials said.
The introduction of vaccination in Japan started slowly, but has increased dramatically since the end of May, and now about 77% of the population is fully vaccinated – the main reason why experts cite a steady slowdown in the spread of infections in Japan since September.
Booster vaccines for the elderly, who received their first shots in April, are expected to begin in January.
The advertising campaign for the revaccination began amid widespread panic over the new option. The first case of an omicron in Japan was discovered on Tuesday at a Namibian diplomat who had recently arrived from that country.
Japan has banned all foreign visitors since Tuesday as an extreme precaution against the new option. The ban will roughly last until the end of the year. The government also requires Japanese citizens arriving in the country to be quarantined for up to 14 days.
The World Health Organization warned on Monday that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence, saying it could lead to surges with “serious consequences.”