How to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine in Japan
Japan's central government has given the go-ahead for local municipalities to initiate vaccinations of those 16 to 65, so long as local governments can complete vaccination of those 65 and over before the end of July.
Wondering what this means for you? Want to know how to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment in Tokyo? What are the basic steps required to book your appointment?
And what's the difference between vaccinations conducted by local governments and large-scale vaccinations by the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in Tokyo and Osaka?
We break it down as simply as possible.
Note: The following information is a translated, summarized explanation of NHK's bulletin on the vaccination process and details from the Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare's Corona Wakuchin Navi site.
The COVID-19 vaccination appointment step-by-step flowchart
Here's the general flow of booking your COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Japan and the essential points to know and consider as you move forward—from receiving your vaccination voucher to getting your shots.
Step 1. Receive the vaccination voucher and the vaccination notification details. A vaccination voucher (接種券= sesshu ken) will be mailed to your registered domicile, sent to you by the local government. As a general rule, people who wish to be vaccinated must receive the vaccine at the municipality where they are registered.
Image: NHK, example of the vaccine voucher.
Video: William Haynes, CNET at Osaka Board of Education and host on Found in Japan, has provided this English tutorial, explaining the papers and the medical questionnaire that are included in the vaccine voucher envelope.
Step 2. After receiving the voucher and the vaccination notification details, make an appointment based on the steps outlined in the notification you have received from your local government. You will be given a list of medical institutions/vaccination sites where you can receive the vaccine. Check the various sites' availability and the types of vaccines they offer, and then select the medical institution or vaccination site of your choice.
Step 3. Go to the vaccination site and present your vaccination voucher (do not tear off the coupon) received from the local government at the reception desk and confirm your identity with your driver's license, health insurance card, or My Number card. The government-run Corona Wakuchin Navi site suggests you wear a T-shirt for easy access to the shoulder. All vaccination costs are free of charge.
Step 4. You will be asked to fill out a medical questionnaire about your health condition and any illnesses you have had in the past, and you will be given a preliminary medical examination by a doctor to determine if you are eligible for vaccination. If there are no problems, you can receive the vaccine. The vaccination process is expected to take about one or two minutes per person. After the vaccination, you will receive a "vaccination certificate" (接種済証 = sesshu zumi sho) with the date and relevant information, such as the type of vaccine given, which is necessary information when receiving your second shot.
Step 5. You will be asked to stay on-site for at least 30 minutes after the vaccination to assess your health and well-being, so that medical professionals can ensure no allergic reactions have developed. If you experience any changes in your physical condition after the vaccination, medical staff will be able to assist you.
Step 6. Make an appointment for the second vaccination. Using the same process as for the first shot, schedule your appointment for your second dose. Please note: with Pfizer's vaccine, the second dose must be given 21 days after the first. Make sure not to exceed this timeframe to receive your second vaccination.
Step 7. Receive the second vaccination dose.
Note: Findadoc.jp is a community-driven database, created by Twitter user @theyokohamalife. This site lists the clinics in Japan with open waiting lists, where you do not need a vaccine voucher as a prerequisite to book an appointment. Instead, you put down a deposit, which you can get reimbursed by using your vaccine voucher.
What are the differences between vaccinations conducted by local governments and vaccinations by the SDF in Tokyo and Osaka?
Vaccinations conducted by local governments and large-scale vaccinations by the SDF in Tokyo and Osaka are being conducted under two different booking systems.
Vaccinations by the local government follow a vaccination booking process developed by each municipality and outlined in the "Vaccination Notice" sent by the local government to your registered residence.
Vaccinations conducted by the SDF in Tokyo and Osaka follow a separate booking process where you make an appointment through the Ministry of Defense’s website or through LINE app.
To summarize, here are the main differences for how to book your vaccination appointment through the two different systems:
Vaccination by the local government—Follow the instructions on the vaccination notice sent from your city to your registered residence.
Vaccination by SDF—Using the "vaccination voucher" sent to you by your local government, schedule your appointment on the SDF website or their LINE account (accessible on their homepage).
How do I book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at a large-scale SDF vaccination site?
To book your COVID-19 vaccine appointment at a large-scale SDF vaccination site in Tokyo or Osaka, you will need to enter the number on your vaccination voucher that will be sent to you from your local government, notifying you of your vaccination eligibility.
If you have not received your vaccination voucher from your local government, you will not be able to make a reservation for the SDF's large-scale vaccination sites, presently open to residents of Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa and Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo.
Once you have your vaccination notice and accompanying vaccination voucher, use the unique number on the voucher to schedule your appointment on the SDF website or their LINE account (accessible on their homepage).
Please note that it may take some time before your vaccination notice and voucher arrives from the local government, as these are being sent out sequentially by age, based on the previous direction by the central government. This process is likely to be speeded up soon.
The reservation systems for large-scale vaccinations conducted by the SDF in Tokyo and Osaka and the vaccinations conducted by local governments are not linked. Therefore, if you have already made an appointment for one vaccination site, but you now wish to get vaccinated through a separate avenue, you will need to cancel one or the other to avoid wasting the vaccine.
If you have already received the first dose at the local government, you will not be able to receive the vaccine at an SDF location.
Be sure to enter the correct vaccination voucher number when booking your appointment, as your number will be checked at the site. If the number you input to book your appointment does not match the vaccination voucher number that you show as proof, you will be refused.
According to this NHK brief, the COVID-19 vaccine given at SDF sites are the newly approved Moderna vaccine.
How do I book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at a local government vaccination site?
The procedure for making an appointment through the website differs from municipality to municipality.
For example, in Yokohama City, the procedure is as follows (example provided by NHK):
Access the website indicated in the "Vaccination Notice" with your smartphone or PC.
Enter your "Vaccination Voucher Number" and password.
Enter your email address.
Click on the URL in the email that was sent to you.
Proceed to the reservation screen.
Select the vaccination site of your choice.*
Enter the date and time of your desired vaccination.
*There are 2 categories of locations where you can receive your vaccination, 集団接種 = shudansesshu (group vaccination centers) and 個別接種 = kobetsu sesshu (private vaccination establishments), which have separate booking systems.
For local government-run group vaccination centers 集団接種, you will be able to find booking information on each city's website or in the vaccination notice that is sent to you.
To book a private vaccination at a medical establishment 個別接種, each municipality handles this differently. Some municipalities will allow you to book your private vaccination appointment via the same booking method as the group vaccination, while other cities will ask you to make an appointment by calling the medical institution of your choice directly.
For both cases, you can find out which method your local government uses by referring to the vaccination notice sent by the local government or through your local government's website.
To find out the vaccination type given at local government-run group vaccination sites, go to Corona Wakuchin Navi site and search for your city. Select the center or medical facility where you will receive your vaccine; the vaccine type will be listed to the far right (next to the purple dot).
Image: Corona Wakuchin Navi, showing the Shinjuku Green Tower Internal Medicine Clinic is administering the Pfizer vaccine.
If you want to receive the vaccination in a different municipality than the one where you live, you can apply to do so here (Japanese).
According to NHK's explanation of the vaccination booking process, if you find the booking process difficult to complete on your own, you are allowed to give your vaccination voucher number to a family member, relative, or trusted acquaintance and have them complete the booking procedure for you.
However, the Consumer Affairs Agency calls for caution as suspicious phone calls from people asking for money or personal information under the pretense of making a vaccine appointment on others' behalf have been reported.
You will be able to book your vaccine appointment as soon as you receive your vaccine notification and vaccine voucher from your local government. According to some reports, this will arrive sometime in July or even as soon as the end of June.
Once you have received the vaccine booking information from your local government, use it to book your vaccine appointment. If you need English-language help to understand how to book your vaccine appointment, you can ask a TokyoMate Assistant to help you with translation and the booking process.
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