Japan gears up for vaccine booster shots

Japanese officials are getting ready to begin third doses of coronavirus vaccines in two weeks as the number of new infections remains low.

Officials across Japan reported 204 new cases on Wednesday and five deaths. Tokyo had 27 new infections.

The government plans to start administering a third round of the Pfizer vaccine next month.

Moderna has applied for approval of its shot as a booster.

The minister in charge of vaccinations says a total of 37 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be delivered to local governments between February and March.

The health ministry is still considering whether to allow children between the ages of 5 and 11 to be vaccinated.
It asked local authorities to prepare to start this around February, if approved.

About 75 percent of Japan's population have been fully vaccinated. But health experts are warning a resurgence is still possible.

Health Minister Goto Shigeyuki said, "As it gets colder, people tend to spend more time indoors. Social and economic activities will likely increase due to annual events towards the year end. We ask everyone to continue to take basic anti-infection measures."

Breakthrough infections and drastic easing of restrictions have led to rising cases in some countries.

South Korea has vaccinated more than 78 percent of its population. But it reported over 3,000 new cases on Tuesday.

The South Korean government has decided to allow senior citizens and hospitalized patients to receive a booster shot four months after their second jab. That interval is two months shorter than its original plan.