Japan's vaccination minister Noriko Horiuchi on Thursday inspected the National Institute of Infectious Diseases as part of efforts to propel the country's coronavirus vaccination program to cope with a possible rebound of infections.
Speaking to reporters after her first visit to the institute in Tokyo since assuming the post, Horiuchi stressed the importance of listening to the voices of people working in the field of virology to reflect their views in policymaking.
The minister and Takaji Wakita, head of the institute, discussed ways to promote the country's vaccination program, as the government is planning to start administrating third doses in December to people who have gone at least eight months since receiving their second dose.
As for ongoing vaccinations, the country's health ministry is considering advising men in their 20s and younger to receive the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc., rather than one by Moderna Inc., due to rare cases of heart disease reported in Japan and abroad after receiving the Moderna shots.
Some countries including Sweden have decided to pause use of the Moderna vaccine for young men, citing higher risks of heart disease, while recommending they receive the Pfizer vaccine.
When asked about the issue, Horiuchi stopped short of clarifying whether the government will recommend administering the Pfizer vaccine for younger men.
So far, the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca Plc are currently available in Japan, all of which are administered in two doses. As of Wednesday, more than 65 percent of the country's population had been fully vaccinated, according to government data.
While Japan has been seeing a steady decline in infections across the country amid the progress of vaccination, health experts are concerned about a possible infection rebound.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met the government's top COVID-19 adviser Shigeru Omi for the first time since assuming the office earlier this month and exchanged views over the government's future coronavirus response.
Omi told reporters after the meeting that the prime minister plans to strengthen the medical system, which had been strained due to a fifth wave of infections this summer, and enhance the virus testing system.
Earlier this week, Kishida said in a lower house plenary session he will soon present an outline of his coronavirus response, which reflects on the shortage of hospital beds this summer.