As the nation’s COVID-19 booster rollout begins to wind down and as the government considers a second booster shot starting as early as May, vaccine hesitancy remains an issue that can impede uptake in the vaccines and hurt the country’s chances of emerging from the pandemic in the near future.

Almost 80% of people in Japan have received at least two COVID-19 doses, but that doesn’t mean all are planning to get additional shots. Decisions on boosters can depend on people’s circumstances and the pandemic situation, warns Takayuki Harada, a psychology professor at the University of Tsukuba. The rollout of third shots began on Dec. 1, but the booster vaccination rate remains a little above 40%.

“Vaccinations were progressing smoothly last September, but at that time the delta variant was prevalent and the risk of serious illness was said to be extremely high,” he said. “I think it was fortunate that the timing of the vaccine rollout in Japan coincided with the outbreak of delta."