Photo/Illutration A health care worker fills a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, on July 13. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said all COVID-19 booster shots will be provided free of charge.

“The third vaccination shots will be implemented with the government paying for all expenses,” Kishida said at the Lower House plenary session on Oct. 12.

The government has paid for the two doses now being administered to the general population.

Earlier, in the Upper House session, Kishida indicated that the booster shots could begin as early as December for health care professionals who received their two jabs in March and April.

They were the first to receive the vaccines, followed by senior citizens aged 75 and older and then progressively younger age groups.

An experts’ panel to the health ministry recommended in September that booster shots be given and that the third jab should be administered at least eight months after the second dose.

Noriko Horiuchi, the state minister in charge of promoting vaccinations, said at her news conference on Oct. 12 that delivery of vaccines to local governments had been completed to allow for 90 percent of the population aged 12 and older to receive their second jabs in the vaccination program.

She added that local governments would receive more vaccine doses when the need arises.

As of Oct. 11, about 175 million doses had been given, Horiuchi said.

She said 73.6 percent of the total population had received at least one jab while 64.3 percent had received the recommended two doses.

(This article was written by Masatoshi Toda and Taishi Sasayama.)