Japan will begin offering fourth coronavirus vaccine shots next week to the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions, the health ministry said Friday.

People aged 60 and older as well as individuals between 18 and 59 with chronic health conditions or at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms if infected with the coronavirus will be eligible for the second booster shots, starting Wednesday.

The announcement came after the Cabinet approved a revision to a ministerial ordinance required to offer the fourth shots.

The main purpose of the second boosters is to prevent the development of severe COVID-19 symptoms. Doses of the vaccines developed by U.S. pharmaceutical companies Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. will be administered to individuals who received third shots at least five months earlier.

Vaccine tickets will be sent to people aged 60 and over, while those eligible between 18 and 59 will be notified differently depending on their local governments, with some residents required to apply.

In other cases, tickets will be sent out to all residents, including who are not eligible.

The health ministry is calling on people to check with their local government consultation services and to pay attention to announcements.

"We will continue to work closely with local governments to ensure a smooth start to fourth vaccinations," Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Shigeyuki Goto told a press conference.

People aged between 18 to 59 with conditions including chronic respiratory illness, heart disease, kidney disease and obesity will be eligible for the fourth shots.

Related coverage:

Japan looking to resume accepting foreign tourists in June

BA.2 subvariant likely represents 90% of coronavirus cases in Japan

Japan to limit 4th COVID vaccine to elderly, those with conditions