Japan began rolling out ワクチン (wakuchin, vaccines) for the 新型コロナウイルス (shingata koronauirusu, novel coronavirus/COVID-19) in February. We were a little behind other G7 nations but, 遅くても始まらないよりはまし (osokute mo hajimaranai yori wa mashi, better late than never).

With more than 58 million or 46.2% of the total population having been fully vaccinated as of the time of this writing, you’ll often hear people talk about ワクチン and their 副反応 (fukuhannō, side effects) in everyday conversation. Being vaccinated is becoming a prerequisite to attend some social functions in Japan, so being able to tell people you’ve received your shots is becoming increasingly important.

It’s not unusual to hear people greet each other with ワクチン打った? (wakuchin utta?) or ワクチン打たれましたか? (wakuchin utaremashita ka?) While both sentences translate as “Did you get the vaccine?” (using the verb 打つ [utsu, to hit/strike] for the act of injecting), the difference here is the extent of the politeness. Among friends you can use 打った (and sometimes use it on its own: “村山、もう打った?” [“Murayama, mō utta?,” “Murayama, get it already?”]), but with a superior or elderly neighbor you’ll want to use the passive voice, in this case 打たれる (utareru, to be injected), as it is more polite: “田中さん、ワクチン打たれましたか?” (“Tanaka-san, wakuchin utaremashita ka?” “Mrs. Tanaka, did you receive the vaccine?”) These kinds of 敬語 (keigo, honorific expression) structures were introduced in last week’s Bilingual column.

Of course, the response to these questions will vary from person to person; many of us are in different stages of being vaccinated. However, a few basic structures are likely to clear up any confusion.

If you’ve been fully vaccinated already, the standard reply is 打ちました (uchimashita, [I’ve been] vaccinated). You can elaborate by adding a time frame or how many doses you’ve had at the beginning of the sentence: 先月打ちました (Sengetsu uchimashita, [I got] vaccinated last month), 7月に打ちました (Shichi-gatsu ni uchimashita, [I got] vaccinated in July) or 2回目を昨日打ちました (ni-kaime o kinō uchimashita, I received my second shot yesterday).

After establishing your status, follow-up questions may include: ファイザー/モデルナ/アストラゼネカですか? (Faizā/Moderuna/Asutorazeneka desu ka?, Did you get the Pfizer/Moderna/AstraZeneca?), 熱は出ました? (netsu wa demashita?, did you get a fever?) or 副反応は大丈夫でした? (fukuhannō wa daijōbu deshita?, were you OK with the side effects?) On a side note, the word 副反応 is used specifically for vaccine side effects while 副作用 (fukusayō) is used for side effects from vaccines and in other situations like surgeries and so on.

If you’ve received one dose, your answer to the “ワクチン打った” question could be, 一回目はもう打って、二回目は来週打つ予定です (ikkaime wa mō utte, ni-kaime wa raishū utsu yotei desu, I’ve already gotten my first shot and I’m scheduled to get my second shot next week).

For those who haven’t gotten their shots, making a note of your intention to do so may be helpful in alleviating any worries of the person you’re speaking to. In this case, using words like 予定 (yotei, schedule) and 予約 (yoyaku, reservation) will be useful. Some constructions include, 来月打つ予定です (raigetsu utsu yotei desu, I’m scheduled to be vaccinated next month) and 9月の3週目に予約しました (ku-gatsu no san-shūme ni yoyaku shimashita, I booked [my first/second shot] for the third week of September).

The key to using 予定 is pairing it with a verb in its dictionary form or a noun with the particle ~の (no) attached to it. It isn’t strictly used for schedules, but can express intentions, too. For example, 新しいパソコンを買う予定です (atarashii pasokon o kau yotei desu, I’m planning to buy a new computer) or 休みは二週間ぐらいの予定です (yasumi wa ni-shūkan gurai no yotei desu, I’m planning to take around two weeks of vacation).

You can also simply answer “ワクチン打った?” with まだです (mada desu, not yet) if you don’t want to go into detail.

As in other countries, not everyone is planning on getting vaccinated. Some are 打ちたくても打てない人 (uchitakute mo utenai hito, people not able to receive the vaccine even though they want to). According to an online survey conducted by the Tokyo government that targeted 1,000 people in their 20s through their 70s, 78.3% of respondents had either already taken or are still willing to get a vaccine while 12.7% responded, 「おそらく接種しない」 (osoraku sesshu shinai, I probably won’t get a vaccine) or 「絶対しない」 (zettai shinai, I absolutely won’t [get a vaccine]).

Responding to the question of “ワクチン打った?,” you can simply respond “打ちません” (“Uchimasen,” “[I] won’t get [a vaccine]”) though it sounds a bit blunt. Try stating the reason in advance and adding the particle ~ので (node, because): アレルギーがあるので、打ちません (Arerugī ga aru node, uchimasen, I have an allergy, so I won’t get it) or 副反応が怖いので、打ちません (fukuhannō ga kowai node, uchimasen, I’m afraid of side effects, so I won’t get it).

Also, if you are still unsure, just answer by saying 迷っています (mayotte-imasu, [I’m] hesitating) or 考えています (kangaete-imasu, [I’m still] thinking).

With concerns of ブレークスルー感染 (burēkusurū kansen, breakthrough infections) now being reported, even if you have been fully vaccinated it seems that マスク (masuku, facemasks) and ソーシャルディスタンス (sōsharu disutansu, social distancing) remain important. Please, お気をつけて (o-ki o tsukete, take care).

A vocabulary list even the anti-vax crowd can believe in


With vaccine hesitancy being an issue in Japan, you may spot some new words on your social media feeds that pertain to people that the English media refer to as anti-vaxxers.

  • 打つ派打たない派 (utsu-ha/utanai-ha) — The former term refers to people who are supportive of the vaccination campaign, and the latter is for those who are unable to or refuse to get vaccinated. Ex.: ワクチンを打つ派と打たない派の間には大きな溝が生まれ始めている (Wakuchin o utsu-ha to utanai-ha no aida ni wa ōkina mizo ga umarehajimete-iru, The gap between the pro and anti vaccine crowds is widening).
  • ワクチン陰謀論 (wakuchin inbōron) — By placing ワクチン (wakuchin, vaccine) in front of 陰謀論 (inbōron, conspiracy theory), you get a vaccine conspiracy theory. This is not to be confused with 誤情報 (gojōhō, misinformation). Ex.: 米国ではネットを中心に誤情報や陰謀論が拡散しています (Beikoku dewa netto o chūshin ni gojōhō ya inbōron ga kakusan shite-imasu, In the United States, misinformation and conspiracy theories are spreading mainly on the internet).
  • ブースター接種 (būsutā sesshu) —You may gather from the pronunciation that a ブースター is a “booster” while 接種 (sesshu) is another word for vaccination. Many people in Japan are referring to this possible extra shot as the 3回目接種 (san-kaime sesshu, third vaccination). Japan will need to take care of its ワクチン難民 (wakuchin nanmin, lit. vaccine refugees), people who want to get a shot but can’t due to 供給不足 (kyōkyū-busoku, short supply) or an inability to book an appointment. Ex.: イスラエルは、8月1日から60歳以上を対象に、ブースター接種を開始しました (Isuraeru wa, hachi-gatsu tsuitachi kara rokujussai ijō o taishō ni, būsutā sesshu o kaishi shimashita, From Aug. 1, Israel began a booster vaccination campaign for people over the age of 60).
  • 異物混入 (ibutsu konnyū) —This term’s two elements, 異物 (ibutsu, foreign material/substance) and 混入 (konnyū, contamination) come together to create a term that you may see with regard to stories on foreign materials found in a few Moderna vaccine doses. Ex.: モデルな製の異物混入ワクチンが相次いで見つかっています (Moderuna-sei no ibutsu konnyū wakuchin ga aitsuide mitsukatte-iru, Contaminants are being found one after another in Moderna vaccines ).

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