Japan considers 4th vaccine shots for elderly, chronically ill patients – Nationwide
Japan is considering making the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions eligible for fourth coronavirus vaccine shots, in line with recommendations by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, government sources said. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare will also consider whether to make medical staff eligible for the shots after some experts voiced support for the move, the sources said. The ministry will finalise the plan after hearing views from experts in a vaccine panel meeting slated for April 27, the sources said.
The move would mark a significant change in the way Japan has handled vaccinations for COVID-19, as the country has so far covered a wide range of age groups for inoculation. Limiting the eligibility for the fourth shots stemmed from reports the effectiveness of such shots has been low in younger people and similar trends overseas where they have been mainly targeted toward the elderly, according to the sources. The main purpose of vaccinations is to prevent the development of severe symptoms, for which third doses have shown to be effective in preventing in young people against the Omicron variant.
However, the effectiveness of shots of U.S.-manufactured Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which are the two mainly used vaccine drugs in Japan, has been found to wane over time, prompting the health ministry to consider administering the fourth inoculations.
The United States, Europe and other countries have continued to proceed with administering fourth shots. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises inoculations for people aged 50 and older, and those who are immunocompromised. The European Medicines Agency recommends fourth shots for those aged 80 and older, saying it is still too early to consider them for anybody below that age.
Tokyo cancels Sumida River fireworks festival for 3rd straight year – Tokyo Prefecture
The annual Sumida River fireworks festival in Tokyo, one of the biggest summer events in the country, has been cancelled for the third year in a row due to the coronavirus.
The fireworks display is normally held on the final Saturday of July. In the past, it has attracted crowds of up to one million gathering along the banks of the Sumida River as more than 22,000 fireworks are let off.
Sumida Ward and Tokyo metropolitan government officials said the continuing high rate of coronavirus infections in the city make it difficult to hold the festival, as social distancing would be impossible.
Japan considers ‘quasi-refugee’ status for people fleeing conflicts – Nationwide
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says the government is considering creating a more loosely defined refugee category to accept people fleeing conflicts in light of the humanitarian crisis stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“The Justice Ministry is considering a system for accepting people as refugee equivalents from a humanitarian standpoint even if they do not fall under” the 1951 refugee convention, Kishida said at a meeting in Niigata. The prime minister stressed the envisioned system would not discriminate against certain countries, adding that Japan will strive to do its work in accordance with the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Under the U.N. convention, a refugee is a person who cannot return to their country or is unwilling to do so because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
People fleeing conflicts have long found a narrow path to attaining refugee status in Japan, with the government traditionally recognizing only around 1 percent of refugee applications, drawing criticism from human rights organizations. Japan has accepted more than 500 evacuees fleeing the war in Ukraine since it began in late February.