Getting vax'd for COVID-19 in Japan
Are we there yet?
As the world rushes to get vaccinated for COVID-19, Japan looks to join the race. With the Olympics just around the corner, and concerns of it being a super-spreader event in a largely unvaccinated country, the administration is beginning to take the hint that now might be a good time to get those vaccines into consenting arms.
Here's a brief look at what to expect.
1. One step at a time
Before everyone rushes to their ward office to ask when it's their turn, there are a few things that I've heard about the vaccine distribution, through local Japanese media as well as peers and colleagues across Japan.
The first thing is that the vaccine distribution is pretty slow. This might sound like stating the obvious but, particularly for those of us from countries that are well along the way to vaccinating the entire country, this is a lesson in patience.
It does no one good to jump at the throats of local medical staff or officials simply because we're frustrated that things aren't moving as fast as somewhere else. The lesson here? Hold your horses. It will come.
In terms of when your turn will be for the COVID vaccination, you've got to wait for a letter in the mail (yes, actual physical mail) to come with your name on it, indicating when you will be eligible for a vaccine.
I've added a photo of the copy that my wife got for your reference. You'll see that there are dates corresponding with age groups, which will give you an idea of when you'll be able to get the vaccine. As has been happening in other countries, the general order seems to look like: elderly, frontline works (medical staff, etc), general population.
From what I've been told by medical staff when visiting my local hospital (for unrelated purposes), please don't approach local hospital staff for information on COVID-19 vaccines, because they don't know either.
2. Don't forget your "tickets" and everything else
The reason you won't be getting any vaccines until you get your snail mail is because of the "tickets" that you will get the mail. These are barcodes that will be scanned by the person administering your shot. No ticket, no vaccine, so don't leave this at home.
You will also be asked a series of questions about your physical health once you arrive at the center. If you have ever been a physical check-up in Japan, you'll be familiar with some of these, but the basic idea is to make sure that you're in good physical shape to receive the vaccine.
It was hard to interpret from the official wording, but apparently, you may be turned away from receiving your vaccine on the day if the administrator deems your physical condition unfit for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine since the medication is quite strong and can result in adverse side effects.
As with other administrative tasks in Japan, I would prepare to bring the necessary documentation that you would for any sort of official visit. Even if it's not indicated on the forms, as a foreigner, I always bring my inkan/hanko (official signature stamp), passport, Japanese residence card, My Number card, and health card (in this case).
It's been my experience that I "didn't have to" bring something, but something unexpected happens and it would have made things easier if I had it with me. My recommendation to all: keep it all on your body. It's a one-day trip, and you don't want to give the officials any reason to doubt you, for whatever reason.
3. To be continued... the big day!
Hopefully, this information has been helpful! Once I've gone and gotten my COVID-19 vaccine, I'll update again and explain what to explain onsite!
Kevin is a professional writer with experience in music, education, news media and entertainment. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in English before moving to Japan for work. He's lived all over Japan, spending time in Kanto, Chubu, Kinki and Okinawa.
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