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Japan city flooded with inquiries after COVID-19 vaccine voucher lacks specific info

A coronavirus vaccine voucher sent to around 270,000 residents aged 65 or older in the city of Sendai is shown in this image taken in the city on April 9, 2021. On a flyer at the left, the spaces next to descriptions reading "appointment date" and "location" are blank. (Mainichi/Ami Jinnai)

SENDAI -- The municipal government here has been overwhelmed by numerous inquiries since April 1 after elderly residents received coronavirus vaccine vouchers that lacked specific information on where to get the shot and how to make appointments.

    The vaccine vouchers were distributed to around 270,000 residents aged 65 and older in the northern Japan city of Sendai, including those who will turn 65 during fiscal 2021, ahead of the nationwide start of senior citizen vaccinations.

    The Sendai Municipal Government opened the coronavirus vaccination call center on March 16. While the center received a total of 387 inquiries on 12 weekdays during March, the number of queries rose suddenly at the beginning of April, with a total of 14,440 cases being recorded between April 1 and noon on April 9. The city said that on busy days, its call center received over 3,000 inquiries a day.

    The majority of inquiries were reportedly questions on when residents could make appointments, and where they could be vaccinated.

    The Sendai government's vaccine promotion division said that as the number of vaccine doses to be supplied by the national government is unknown, it has been unable to reach a decision on specific time frames and sites for vaccination, and could not include details, including reservation methods, on its vouchers. A representative said, "We have been preparing so that vaccinations can be carried out without confusion," and called on residents to "carefully look after the voucher until the start of inoculations."

    The city of Sendai will give priority to residents of special nursing homes for senior citizen vaccinations in April. Individual vaccinations at medical institutions as well as group vaccinations at civic centers and other places are scheduled to be held from May, and the city has not yet begun to accept applications for those slots.

    (Japanese original by Hana Fujita, Sendai Bureau)

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