TOKYO -- Investigations by Mainichi Shimbun journalists have revealed that arbitrary numbers can be used to make reservations in the online booking system for mass COVID-19 vaccinations currently meant only for eligible elderly residents in Tokyo's 23 wards and the city of Osaka beginning May 17.
Although the inoculations are intended for the over 65s, inputting a birthdate for an individual under 65 years also resulted in a reservation being made. It also appears that putting arbitrary numbers into the reservation system can "occupy" a vaccination slot, which could raise concerns about the reliability of the reservations system.
The reservation period between May 17 and 23 is limited to residents aged 65 and over in Tokyo's 23 special wards and the city of Osaka, who have been sent vaccination vouchers that include numerical codes for them to book their shots. To do so, they must input the six-digit code for their municipal area, their individual 10-digit code and their date of birth to reserve a vaccination at a desired location and for a specific date.
But when the Mainichi Shimbun's reporters tested the system to see if it functions correctly, they found that if they accessed the vaccination reservations system from the Ministry of Defense website and input invented codes for their municipal area and their individual number, they were able to proceed to choosing a vaccination site and time, and to complete the reservation. It was also confirmed that the process could be completed using a birthdate for an individual younger than 65. The journalists' test reservations have already been canceled.
Reserving a slot using this method, however, would not allow an individual to get vaccinated, because this method involves using numbers that don't match vaccination voucher numbers. But it does appear to allow for any number of slots to be booked out, and could lead to people who actually do want to be vaccinated being blocked from the time and date of their choosing.
The Ministry of Defense has said that, under the current reservation system, a user could proceed on to making a reservation even if they input into the bookings page numbers other than the municipal and individual codes provided in the vaccination vouchers. This is reportedly because the system is not linked with municipal governments' reservation systems, and information on vaccination numbers has not been collected.
In response to the revelations, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a May 18 morning press conference that he has instructed the Self Defense Forces managing the large-scale vaccination reservation program to fix the issue swiftly. Speaking about the possibility that any numbers can be input to make a reservation, he said, "For example in the case of municipal codes, we intend to change the system to one that would be able to confirm whether the number (provided by a user) is correct information."
(Japanese original by Kaho Kitayama, Digital News Center, and Yoshitake Matsuura, Tokyo City News Department)