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FAQ: How foreign residents can get coronavirus vaccinations in Japan

In this file photo, vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine and loaded syringes wait to be administered to homeless people at the Welcome Centre in Ilford, east London, on Feb. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

TOKYO -- With reports that coronavirus vaccinations will begin in Japan during the week commencing Feb. 15, The Mainichi answers some common questions that foreign residents may have about the coming rollout, including when they might expect to be inoculated and what the process to receive the shot will look like, based on health ministry and local government information.

    Q: When are vaccinations taking place?

    A: The first vaccinations are expected to begin during the week of Feb. 15, and will be given to medical workers. Other priority groups are expected to begin receiving shots no earlier than April 1. Subsequent priority groups are, in order, those born on April 1, 1957, or earlier who will be at least 65 years old by March 31, 2022, people with underlying diseases and professionals at care facilities for elderly people. Other people will be vaccinated after this.

    Q: Will foreign residents receive vaccines at the same time as Japanese nationals, and will there be priority for people at risk?

    Foreign residents will receive vaccinations at the same time as Japanese citizens, according to a health ministry representative who spoke to The Mainichi. Also, foreign residents in priority groups will be vaccinated with Japanese nationals falling in the same category. For example, a foreign resident with underlying conditions can expect to be given the same priority as a Japanese person with the same health issues.

    Q: Which foreign residents are eligible to receive the vaccine?

    A: All foreign residents in Japan with registered certificates of residency, or "juminhyo" in Japanese, will be able to get vaccine vouchers. A health ministry official told The Mainichi that all individuals clearly living in Japan will be eligible for the vaccine.

    Q: What about foreign residents who are being deported, or who are unemployed and have a limited time left in Japan?

    A: The government is still reviewing how it will respond to individuals in these situations.

    Q: Is there a charge for getting the vaccine?

    A: No, the full cost of vaccinations is covered by public funds, meaning you can be vaccinated for free.

    Q: How many shots will people receive?

    A: Each person is expected to receive two shots under the Japanese government's current procurement plan.

    Q: How will I be notified about getting vaccinated, and where will I get the shot?

    A: Before the vaccination period, residents will be sent vaccination vouchers from their municipal government. Generally, the vouchers will be delivered to the registered residence on their residence certificate. After checking when they are eligible to have the shot, residents will be able to find a medical institution or vaccination site where they can be inoculated using a website the health ministry intends to set up. They should then make a reservation over the phone or online.

    Health care professionals who have already received the vaccine will also be sent vouchers by municipalities, but should not use them. Medical professionals will be informed about vaccinations though their place of work.

    Q: What languages will be used for the vouchers and the vaccination site search system?

    A: No provisions for languages other than Japanese have been confirmed, but residents should check the website of their local municipal government for information specific to where they live. Municipal governments may offer additional details in other languages, or multilingual consultation services, among other provisions.

    Q: There are reports that the vaccinations will involve the "My Number" individual social security and tax number system. Do I need to present a My Number card to be vaccinated?

    A: No, the health ministry has said it does not plan to ask individuals to produce their My Number cards. Instead, people will be expected to bring their vaccine vouchers to receive the shots, along with personal identification such as a driver's license.

    Q: Do I have to get vaccinated?

    A: No. Coronavirus vaccinations are not compulsory, and will be administered only with the consent of the person after they have been properly informed about it. According to the health ministry, individuals receiving vaccinations will be asked for consent after being informed of both the vaccine's effects and the risk of side effects. Vaccinations will not be administered without the consent of the recipient.

    (Answers by Peter Masheter, Aaron Baldwin and Robert Sakai-Irvine, The Mainichi staff writers, based on interviews with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, municipal governments and information from the health ministry website.)

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