Some municipalities began administering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots Thursday, earlier than initially planned, to residents of elderly care facilities.

Municipalities are rushing preparations to give boosters after community-acquired infections of the omicron variant of the coronavirus were confirmed in the prefectures of Kyoto and Osaka.

But only a few people are expected to receive booster shots early.

The central government decided last week to shorten the minimum interval between the second and third shots from eight months to six months for people in elderly facilities.

An elderly care facility in Naniwa Ward in the city of Osaka began administering booster shots Thursday. Twelve residents and staff members who had received their second shots by the end of June were inoculated that day.

"I'm thankful that I was allowed to be vaccinated early for protection," an 88-year-old resident said after her booster shot. "I feel safe."

A 92-year-old resident said he feels scared about the omicron strain.

Setagaya Ward, the most populous of Tokyo's 23 special wards, began early vaccinations at two elderly care facilities the same day.

It hopes to give booster shots to some 15,000 residents and staff members of elderly care facilities in the ward by the end of next March.

"The omicron strain is raging around the world," Setagaya Mayor Nobuto Hosaka told reporters. "We'll hurry."

Bunkyo and Nerima wards in the capital also began administering third shots Thursday.

They joined Koto, Kita and Itabashi wards in giving booster shots earlier than initially planned.

"Due to the delay in the central government's announcement of its policy, we're struggling to secure enough people for conducting early vaccinations," complained an official of a municipal government giving booster shots ahead of schedule.

Also on Thursday, the health ministry said that COVID-19 vaccinations of children between age 5 and 11 are expected to start as early as next March.

The vaccine for children will differ from that of adults in concentration and dosage. The ministry is set to decide whether to approve U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc.'s application for its pediatric vaccine by next month.

The government has already formed an agreement with Pfizer for 120 million doses in additional vaccine supplies for 2022, including those for children.

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