Japan to launch Omicron vaccines for priority targets as early as mid-September

Japan's health ministry has decided to start coronavirus vaccinations targeting the Omicron variant for the elderly and medical workers as early as mid-September.

The ministry's expert panel decided on Friday that people aged 12 and older who have received the first two shots are eligible for the Omicron booster jab.

Members of a priority group that includes elderly people and medical workers are currently getting their fourth shots of the non-Omicron-adapted version.

The jab will be switched to the Omicron-tailored one for those who have yet to receive the fourth shot, possibly in mid-September.

The new vaccine is called a "bivalent," as it targets both the initial coronavirus strain and the BA.1 Omicron subvariant. It is also expected to be effective against the prevailing BA.5 type.

Drug makers Pfizer and Moderna have both applied for authorization of their bivalent vaccines. If approved, they are expected to be shipped out to local governments in mid-September or later.

The health ministry says municipalities can expand their targets to broader age groups once preparations are complete.