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Osaka firm develops free 17-language translation tool to help foreigners get COVID shots

A Vietnamese student gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot at Yolo Japan Corp.'s Yolo Base in Osaka's Naniwa Ward, on Sept. 12, 2021. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)

OSAKA -- In a bid to help foreigners get vaccinated for COVID-19, the operator of a job search site for foreign nationals living in Japan has developed an online tool translating non-Japanese speakers' pre-vaccination survey answers from their own languages.

    Since Japan's vaccine rollout kicked off in February, over half the entire population has had their two shots. But inoculations for foreigners -- who number around 2.89 million in Japan as of December 2020 -- have not progressed to the extent of their Japanese peers. Language barriers are believed to be behind the slow inoculation rates, as vaccine tickets and pre-vaccination surveys distributed by local governments contain many kanji characters that are hard to understand for those not fluent in Japanese.

    The tool developed by Yolo Japan Corp., which provides job and lifestyle assistance services to foreigners living in Japan, offers instant automatic translation into Japanese for 17 languages when input to the pre-vaccination survey form.

    A 17-language translation tool for pre-vaccination survey developed by Yolo Japan Corp. is seen on a smartphone in Osaka's Naniwa Ward on Sept. 12, 2021. It's free online for anyone to use. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)

    The company based in Osaka's Naniwa Ward did group vaccinations for international students and foreign workers on Sept. 12 as part of a workplace vaccine rollout. The 1,000 slots available at the vaccination site filled up within a week of Yolo Japan announcing it on its media outlet, which has registered membership of 190,000 foreign residents in Japan. About 60% of those getting the shots were non-Japanese residents, and many used the translation tool for the process at the inoculation site.

    A 20-year-old Vietnamese student who got a COVID-19 vaccine at the site told the Mainichi Shimbun she was relieved to have the shot, and that she was going to let her worried family back home know she had been inoculated.

    Yolo Japan President Taisuke Kaji said, "If administrative bodies and the private sector cooperate, we can create an environment where more foreign residents find it easy to get vaccinated."

    (Japanese original by Takao Kitamura, Osaka Photo Department)

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