How to Get Vaccinated in Japan

I Got First Does of COVID-19 Vaccination

Japan started its vaccination campaign last February but has been noted around the world for having the slowest rollout among the G7 countries. This was in part due to mandatory local clinical trials before a vaccine could get approved. Currently, three are being distributed: Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The vaccination is totally free and not compulsory. However, you might be wondering how to get vaccinated. This guide introduces the Japanese system.

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How to receive the vaccination voucher

The date at which you will receive the vaccination will mostly depend on which category you fall in. Originally Japan had announced that, after the medical workers, the priority would be to finish the vaccination of 65+ years old people by the end of July, before continuing to vaccinate those with underlying health conditions, then the general public.

However, on the 31st of May the Health Minister, Norihisa Tamura, announced on the NHK that he would like the vaccination for people under the age of 65 to be carried out at the same time as those with underlying conditions. While those with underlying conditions would still be given priority, they would have to report to municipalities independently to secure a spot earlier on.

In any case, the municipality of your residence is the one who should send you the vaccination voucher later this month, along with a letter of notification and a short medical questionnaire. The explanation about the timeline and how to make the reservation will be included, but it will probably be online or by phone. Though the documents will be in Japanese, the Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare published explanations available in several languages, including English:

Although the documents on the website are translated into multiple languages, please note that you have to write your information on the original Japanese document.

As municipalities are left quite an amount of freedom on how they want to handle the vaccination rollout, it is recommended that you check for further information on the website of your city hall. Regarding the type of vaccine you will receive, there is currently no plan to allow people to choose. It is most likely that you will simply receive the vaccine available at the venue you booked.

The vaccination process

The vaccination itself is pretty straightforward. Go to the location you booked at the specified time, show your vaccination voucher, the questionnaire and an ID card (such as a resident card). Then, get a short consultation with the doctor, who will remind you of the potential side-effects. Once you give your consent, you can proceed and get vaccinated.

The nurse will then put a sticker certifying that you received your first dose on the paper called “Record of Vaccination for COVID-19”. This paper is very important and should be kept somewhere safe, as it will be needed to receive your second dose and prove that you have been fully vaccinated. Then, you will be asked to wait 15 minutes to ensure that you do not have any allergic reaction.

Which side effects can I expect?

Side-effects depend on several factors: age, vaccine, etc. One common symptom is soreness in the arm. Younger people tend to have more systemic symptoms such as chills and fever, as their immune system reacts more strongly to what is perceived as a threat. Most of the side effects disappear within 48 hours. Regarding the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it seems that side effects tend to be stronger after the second injection. As such, it is recommended that you take a day off on or after the day you receive the vaccine. Some Japanese companies already announced that they will implement an extra paid day off for people who get vaccinated. If you are a full-time employee, you better consult with your HR department.

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