Countries that have secured vaccines for the coronavirus have been forced to make a hard choice: give two shots that will guarantee a higher efficacy, or give one shot to as many people as possible. Japan, for now, is going with the two-shot option, but that could change if it cannot secure a sufficient supply of vaccines or if it becomes evident that a single shot is enough for a high degree of efficacy, reports Osamu Tsukimori.

The idea of a shift to just one shot comes after an Israeli study found that the first dose of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine reduced COVID-19 symptoms by up to 85%, slightly lower than the 95% efficacy confirmed for two shots in late-stage clinical trials.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that Japan will begin COVID-19 vaccinations for older residents on April 12, significantly expanding the rollout beyond health care workers. The vaccinations for older residents — a group of about 36 million people — will start on a small scale nationwide before ramping up from April 26.

Japan kicks off COVID-19 vaccination drive | REUTERS
Japan kicks off COVID-19 vaccination drive | REUTERS

Fukuoka Prefecture plans to join a group of six prefectures asking the government to lift the COVID-19 state of emergency ahead of its scheduled March 7 expiry date, Kyodo reports, after meeting two key criteria: below 180 cases for seven days in a row and seeing the percentage of occupied hospital beds fall below 50%.

But some  are concerned that lifting the declaration too soon could lead to a resurgence in infections — a fear that a health ministry advisory panel suggested Wednesday could already be becoming a reality.

The panel warned that while hospital bed occupancy rates for COVID-19 patients in 10 prefectures under the emergency are on a downtrend and that burdens on the medical system are easing, cases are declining at a slower pace, and may even stop falling.