Author: M.Kok

COVID-19 Vaccines in Japan

It finally looks like the pandemic might be on its way out. With more and more vaccines becoming available, achieving herd immunity seems to be close. Yet, Japan is somewhat behind with rolling out the vaccine.
Why is that?
And is having Japan’s population vaccinated before the start of the Olympics (which the organizers insist will happen) realistic?
What are the options for foreigners living in Japan?

Japanese Mistrust of Vaccinations

Various polls show that most of the Japanese public does not trust vaccines. No, they are not anti-vaxxers, nor do the Japanese think vaccines cause autism. Most of the distrust comes from events in the 70’s and 90’s. Reports of severe side-effects found their way into mainstream media. And after several investigations and rulings that did not conclude much, the government’s attitude towards vaccines changed to ‘passive’. The kind of ‘get vaccinated if you want’ of approach.

This attitude influenced policy making in a way that made getting new vaccines into circulation difficult. And despite the advanced understanding of the science, vaccine development slowed down.

The general thought of the public seems to be ‘to get it when it’s safe’. When that is, is hard to guess, but at the moment, the confidence rating is somewhere around 30%.

When will the Vaccination Start in Japan?

It already has. But the numbers are not that impressive. The vaccinations are to proceed in the order of:
healthcare workers > senior citizens (age of 65+) > people with compromised immune systems and people who work in care homes > everyone else above the age of sixteen.

The government aims to start the second group (seniors) in mid-April, the ‘earliest’.

The vaccine consists of two doses given three weeks apart. Judging by the current pace and the many logistic challenges that the government still needs to sort out, it’s not looking great for herd immunity before the Olympics.

As of now, foreigners living in Japan are considered part of the ‘everyone else’ group. You will likely get the free shots in the prefecture where you have your address registered.

Will it be Faster to go Back Home to get the shot?

It depends on where home is. If it is the UK, for example, then yes, probably.

What to do when waiting for the vaccine?

Till there is herd immunity, it is safer to keep doing what you have (hopefully) been doing already. Do this.

Compared to overseas, the situation in Japan is not as dramatic. Over four hundred cases were reported in Tokyo today(third week of March), which is considered problematic by Japanese standards.

Not to say that there is nothing to be worried about, but the situation in Japan has been and still is much better than in most other countries. Use common sense and follow the simple prevention steps, and you should be alright till the vaccine is available(whenever that is).

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