How to Get a Coronavirus Vaccine in Japan: What You Need to Know

We summarize the currently available information on when you can expect to get a coronavirus vaccine in Japan and the process for getting a shot once you receive your vaccination ticket.

Who can get a vaccine?

  • The government will provide free vaccinations to all residents of Japan, including foreign residents who are 16 and above.
  • The vaccine is not mandatory. There is no penalty for not getting inoculated but everyone who is eligible is urged to get the shot.
  • If you have a fever, a severe acute disease or have a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccinations, you will not be allowed to receive the vaccine.
  • Pregnant women are eligible to receive the vaccine, upon consultation with a healthcare professional. The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women avoid getting inoculated during the first trimester.

Consent

The vaccination will not be given without the consent of the recipient. Your workplace or school, for example, cannot force you to get a vaccination.

Timeline for vaccine rollout

February 17: Healthcare workers started receiving the vaccine.

  • This group includes doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers who have frequent contact with patients, as well as pharmacists, emergency personnel who transport patients, and members of the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces.

Week of February 22: Vaccination of 40,000 healthcare workers at 100 hospitals nationwide started.

Mid-March: A system will be established to inoculate the  remaining 3.7 million healthcare workers.

April: People 65 and older will start receiving the vaccine. Approximately 36 million people fall in to this group.

— Following the 65+ age group, about 8.2 million people with underlying health conditions are next in line.

  • This group includes people with chronic heart disease and kidney disease, respiratory diseases, diseases that reduce immune function, such as cancer, and people with sleep apnea syndrome, as well as people with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or more.

— Following the previous group, about 2 million people who work at facilities for the elderly will be eligible.

— About 7.5 million people between the age of 60 and 64 will also receive priority in getting inoculated.

Summer 2021: The remainder of the population, aged 16 and above, are expected to start receiving the vaccine this summer.

How do I sign up for a vaccine?

Local municipalities will carry out vaccinations under the direction of the national government.

  1. You will receive a vaccination ticket and a “notification about the coronavirus vaccine” in the mail from your local government.
  2. Find a medical facility or vaccination center in your municipality where you would like to get the shot.
    1. Vaccination sites will include medical institutions, public halls, and gymnasiums.
    2. In principle, you have to get vaccinated in the municipality were you reside, as indicated on your Residence Card, but there are exceptions to this rule. For example, students at boarding schools; victims of domestic violence or stalking; and people assigned to work in locations away from their home, among others can receive the shot in another municipality by notifying the municipality in advance.
  3. Make a phone or online reservation following the instructions included with your ticket.
  4. Bring your vaccination ticket and personal ID with you to the vaccination site.
  5. The vaccination is free of charge with the vaccination ticket.

At the vaccination site

  1. The facility will scan the QR code on your vaccination ticket.
  2. Your temperature will be taken. You won’t be able to get the shot if you have a fever.
  3. Fill out a form indicating whether you’ve had severe allergic reactions in the past to inoculations, whether you’re taking any medicine and if you’re pregnant.
  4. A doctor will also ask you some questions based on what you answered on the form.
  5. If everything checks out, you’ll then receive the shot.
  6. You’ll be asked to wait at the facility for 15 to 30 minutes after the jab. About 1 in 200,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine is known to cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include a skin rash, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and shock.

Certificate of vaccination

A vaccination certificate will be issued to those who have received a complete vaccination, after the second dose is administered. The certificate will include the date and information about which vaccine you received.

Storage of vaccine info

After you receive the first shot, the details will be immediately recorded in a cloud-based national database. The database is expected to be set up by mid-April. The information will also be linked to your 12-digit My Number card. The database is meant to make it easier for you to receive a second shot, in case you lose your vaccination ticket or if you get a second shot in a different city from where you got your first shot.

Booster shot and vaccine types

Japan has agreements to receive vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. All three vaccines require a booster shot following the first dose.

For the Pfizer vaccine, the second dose is to be  administered 21 days after the first shot.

For the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, the second shot is to be administered 28 days after the first shot.

The Pfizer vaccine was the first to be approved by Japan, on February 14th.

The governments aims to secure enough vaccines for all residents by the end of June but this will depend on government approval of the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines. AstraZeneca applied for fast-track approval of its vaccine in early February, while approval of the Moderna vaccine is unlikely before May.

It is also not likely that the entire population of Japan can be vaccinated before the country hosts the Olympic Games this summer, and the government has said athletes and other attendees will not be required to be vaccinated beforehand.


Sources: Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, Information on Coronavirus Vaccine (in Japanese), Japan Times, NHK (in Japanese)

Lead photo: iStock