Everything you need to know about coronavirus vaccinations in Japan

This is part 73 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

The Japanese government plans to provide coronavirus vaccines free of charge for all residents over the age of 16, including foreigners. You will be able to get yours in the municipality in which you are registered. The health ministry is considering making vaccination tickets multilingual.

When will the program start?

The health ministry has approved Pfizer’s vaccine, and started inoculating people from February 17 in the following order:

1) Medical workers
2) Senior citizens (65 years old or above)
3) People with pre-existing conditions and those working for senior care facilities
4) Everyone else above the age of 16.

Senior citizens are expected to receive the shot from April 12 at the earliest.

Pregnant women will be asked to consult with their doctors because of the lack of domestic and international test data regarding the vaccine's impact on fetuses and mothers.

People who have already had COVID-19 and recovered will be eligible to receive the vaccine.

Where to get vaccinated

In principle, the vaccine will be given at medical facilities or other designated sites, such as public halls and gymnasiums.

Municipalities will offer the vaccine under the supervision of the Japanese government.

If you live away from your registered home, are hospitalized, or have other circumstances beyond your control, it may be possible to receive the vaccination in another municipality.

How many doses

You will receive the same vaccine twice with an interval of three weeks.

Side effects

Side effects appear to be extremely rare, but in the event that you do experience any, the government has established a relief system to cover medical expenses or disability pensions.

The process

1) The municipality in which you are a resident will mail you a vaccination coupon and notification letter.
2) You must select a local medical facility or vaccination site and make a reservation by phone or online.
3) Bring your coupon and ID with you.
4) You will be asked to write down your health condition and medical history. A doctor will then conduct an examination to determine whether you can receive the vaccination.
5) If you can, you will be given the vaccine and a certificate indicating the day you got the first dose. You must keep the certificate in order to receive the second dose.
6) You will be asked to wait at least 15 minutes before leaving the facility, and report if you suffer a headache, fatigue or a severe allergic response known as anaphylaxis.

Not mandatory

You will receive a vaccine only if you agree, and understand the possible after-effects.

Fraud alert

The Consumer Affairs Agency says it anticipates fraudulent schemes related to the vaccination. It asks people to note that municipalities will not ask for payment or personal information by phone or email. Your vaccination coupon will be sent by mail.

Multilingual phone consultation

The health ministry has set up a telephone hotline: 0120-565653

Consultations are available in Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; in Thai daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and in Vietnamese daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The information is accurate as of March 16, 2021.