Japan plans to launch a fresh round of COVID-19 vaccinations from May, starting with the most vulnerable members of society, health ministry officials said Wednesday.

The ministry's plan, which also includes expanding inoculations to the rest of the public from September, was approved at a panel comprised of health experts, heads of local governments and others.

The fresh inoculation drive comes despite the government's decision to downgrade the legal status of COVID-19 to the same category as common infectious diseases like seasonal flu. The downgrade takes effect May 8.