First confirmation of "Omicron variant" in Japan. There is a growing demand for a third vaccination ahead of schedule.
With the first confirmation of a new variant of the novel coronavirus "Omicron variant" in Japan, there are increasing calls for the advancement of the third vaccination. The third vaccination started on December 1st. In principle, the third inoculation should be at least 8 months apart from the second inoculation, but the effectiveness of existing Delta variant will be reduced within half a year. The infectivity of the Omicron variant is more concerned than that of the Delta variant, and the vaccine effect and the possibility of aggravation are unknown, so it is pointed out that it is necessary to enhance immunity more than ever.
◆ Vaccine "The effect of preventing the disease from becoming severe can be expected"
"Because of the emergence of the Omicron variant, we should hurry to proceed with the third inoculation." Professor Hiroyuki Moriuchi (Pediatrics) of Nagasaki University, who is familiar with vaccines, shows a sense of crisis. The Pfizer vaccine has halved its infection prevention effect after the second 5 months in an overseas study. Elderly people who finished the second time in May have already entered a period of decline, but at present the third time has to wait until January next year.
Omicron variant may have greater infectivity and immunity evasion than conventional variant. Dr. Moriuchi points out, "Even if the vaccine does not work well, the third vaccination can be expected to have a considerable effect on preventing the disease from becoming more severe." After the appearance of the Omicron variant, Western countries strongly recommend the third inoculation to the citizens. In the UK, the interval between the second vaccination and the third vaccination has been reduced from 6 months to 3 months.
◆ Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, "There is no amount of vaccine to be distributed" to inoculate ahead of schedule nationwide
The Government of Japan has not changed the principle of the 8-month interval for the third vaccination. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) explains the reason, "We are considering the preparation status of local governments nationwide." The only exception that can be shortened from 8 months is when a cluster (outbreak) occurs in a medical institution or a facility for the elderly. It is also necessary to consult with MHLW.
The city of Yokohama announced on December 1 that a cluster had occurred at a facility for the elderly in the city, and MHLW approved the third vaccination at that facility ahead of schedule. However, MHLW has said that "if local governments nationwide want 6 months, there is no amount of vaccine to be distributed", and it is uncertain whether it will directly lead to the relaxation of the standard.
◆ Inoculation after confirming the cluster "It doesn't make much sense"
Dr. Moriuchi makes a suggestion. "By the time we confirm the occurrence of a cluster, the infection has already spread. It does not make much sense to start vaccination after that. If there is not enough vaccine, we should give priority to areas with many infected people such as Tokyo. "
Hideo Maeda, director of the Kita Ward Health Center in Tokyo, who is a member of the advisory board, an expert organization that advises MHLW, is also concerned. "It will take several days for the local government to establish a system of doctors in charge of vaccination after the outbreak of the cluster. In the meantime, the infection will spread." He hopes to expedite the vaccination of about 2000 residents of the elderly facility in Kita Ward.
At the National Governors' Association and the government's discussion meeting at the end of November, there was an opinion calling for the third vaccination to be carried out ahead of schedule. Mr. Maeda said, "Since the Omicron varian has been confirmed, more local governments will want to inoculate ahead of schedule. It is necessary to discuss again the criteria for inoculation ahead of schedule and the supply of vaccines." Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on December 1, "We will consider the range of inoculation without waiting for 8 months if necessary, taking into account future changes in infection status, preparation status, vaccine supply capacity, etc." He did not deny the possibility of easing the conditions ahead of schedule.
This article is composed using Google Translatecustomized exclusively for The Chunichi Shimbun. The translation may have limited accuracy.