Taro Kono, Japan's former vaccine chief, has said the government should speed up its rollout of COVID-19 booster shots as the omicron variant spreads, criticizing the pace set by the health ministry.

Kono’s comments, made in an interview Wednesday in Tokyo, came just after Japan confirmed the first cases of community transmission of the omicron variant, in the western prefecture of Osaka.

"Speed matters more than fairness and now omicron is coming in, so we should be doing it as fast as possible,” he said, dismissing a government plan that requires an interval of eight months between second and third doses for most people. "Why wait for eight months? No reason.”