A helpful guide to the reservation process, precautions, and possible side effects you can expect when getting the jab in Japan.

While a lot of countries overseas have been vaccinating their residents for a while now, Japan has been relatively slow to follow suit, with a large number of under-65s still waiting to receive vouchers from the local government, which are required to receive the free vaccine.

It hasn’t been an easy road for those who’ve received their vouchers either, as many have run into problems when trying to secure an appointment, and our reporter Ikuna Kamezawa found herself in that exact situation when she tried to make a booking at a clinic in Nakano, the ward of Tokyo where she resides.

Bookings were full until 15 August, after which time she’d have to battle it out with other residents to get her jab, so she decided to try her luck at the mass vaccination site set up by the Self Defense Forces in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

The mass vaccination site has been set up as an option for those wanting to receive their shot as soon as possible, but it too requires a reservation, so Ikuna had her laptop at the ready at 11:45 p.m. on 25 June, 15 minutes before reservations for the week began.

As soon as reservations opened, a notice appeared, which read:

“Due to extreme congestion, you will be connected to the reservation site in turn. However, please be aware there is a possibility that the reservation screen may not show by the time you are connected.”

This had Ikuna on edge, but she was thankfully able to proceed to the reservation page and book a time for 28 June. It certainly wasn’t easy to secure a vaccination, even with a vaccination voucher, but Ikuna finally had her first jab booked, and when the big day came, she took a train to Otemachi Station, which is a ten-minute walk from the vaccination site.

▼ Posters are set up at the station to help guide the many people making their way to the site.

▼ Once she’d made her way out of Exit C2b, her destination was a short two-minute walk away.

▼ The sign at the centre reads: Self Defense Forces Large-Scale Vaccination Centre

On the day of your booking, there are two things you mustn’t forget to take with you: your vaccination voucher and a form of I.D. such as a driver’s license. It’s also recommended that you print out the “preliminary examination slip” from the centre’s official website in advance and fill it out to save time, although it is possible to receive the form and fill it out at the centre.

Once Ikuna was inside, she took a look around and saw it was mostly filled with older people, aged in their 60s and 70s. Ikuna appeared to be the only one under 40. That made sense, though, as over-65s were given priority with the vaccine, meaning they probably received their first dose a month or so earlier and were now back for their second dose.

At this site, they were administering the Moderna vaccine, which requires a second dose within 28 to 38 days after the first inoculation.

Once Ikuna had made her way through reception, she was given a coloured transparent file and guided to a long line with others holding a similarly coloured file. The “blue group” to which Ikuna belonged appeared to be made up of people receiving their first jab, and there weren’t many people in this group, so it was a relatively smooth progression from step 1 to 3 in the process.

▼ Step 1 involves confirmation of the pre-examination slip, Step 2 is the pre-examination and Step 3 is the vaccination.

Ikuna was surprised at the thoroughness involved in steps 1 and 2, with staff and doctors asking those waiting to be vaccinated about any possible allergies and enquiring about their physical condition on multiple occasions.

Ikuna could feel the tension of the staff in the centre, who appeared to be taking every precaution possible to ensure no mistakes were made. When she visited, both staff and visitors alike were polite and well-mannered, though, which made the experience as pleasant as possible.

▼ After 47 minutes since entering reception, Ikuna was finally vaccinated!

The injection is usually given on the non-dominant arm, but right-handed Ikuna had a rash on her left arm, so she got the jab in her right arm instead. Serious allergic reactions may occur within 30 minutes after inoculation, so Ikuna waited for half an hour in the designated waiting space at the venue. There were no problems here, so all that was left for her to do was make her second reservation with the staff and she was done!

As for side effects, which Ikuna had been concerned about, the only thing she suffered was pain in a five-centimetre (two-inch) radius around the place where she’d been injected, which began to hurt immediately after the jab. The night after her vaccination, she turned onto her right arm in her sleep, which hurt so much it woke her up, and she says she found it difficult to raise her arm above her chest the following day.

▼ Despite the pain, there was no swelling at the injection site.

Ikuna was able to type away on her computer and eat without any problems, and after three days, the pain had completely disappeared. Five days later, she’d forgotten about the pain and couldn’t even feel where she’d been injected.

Possible symptoms that may appear after vaccination include fever, headache and tiredness, which Ikuna didn’t really suffer from, although she did feel listless at work, but that’s not unusual for her during a workday.

According to what Ikuna’s heard from those who’ve had two jabs of Moderna, it seems more likely that the second dose will have stronger side effects than the first dose, so those concerned about possible side effects should time their jab accordingly, and make a reservation for a time when they don’t have to go in to work afterwards.

It’s not easy to make your second booking as the ideal date may not be available, but as long as you get the second dose within the suggested timeframe, there should be nothing to worry about. Although she was nervous to get the jab at first, Ikuna is glad she did it and is now one step closer to being fully vaccinated, with her second jab scheduled for 26 July.

Related: Ministry of Defense / Self-Defense Forces Official HP
Photos © SoraNews24
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