Photo/Illutration A 7-year-old boy is given a COVID-19 vaccine in Silver Spring in the U.S. state of Maryland on Nov. 10, 2021. (Yuko Lanham)

The government announced Jan. 12 it plans to start providing COVID-19 vaccinations for children between the ages of 5 to 11 in March at the earliest. Until now, that age group had been ineligible for jabs due to health concerns.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said vaccines produced Moderna Inc. will be used after the government secured an additional 18 million doses from the U.S. company.

“If use of the vaccine is approved by the health ministry and the expert panel advising the government on this matter, we expect to begin the inoculations from March onward as the vaccines are scheduled to arrive in Japan in February,” Matsuno said.

The government moved with lightning speed after announcing a new package of measures to fight COVID-19 the day before. It said then that experts will consider giving jabs to children under 12.

With regard to booster shots for the general public, Matsuno said the government is considering moving up mass rollouts in offices and universities from its initial target date of March.