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As Japan’s plans for COVID-19 vaccine rollout take shape, the government is trying to dispel concerns over a planned system for the centralized management of personal information.

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccine rollout, and digital transformation minister Takuya Hirai are expected to address the concerns, but details of the system have yet to be decided.

A principal issue is how to ensure the collected information is managed carefully.

The new system will utilize a database to be built based on the basic resident registration system. The serial numbers of tickets for vaccinations that municipalities will distribute to local residents will be registered on the database, as will their My Number social security and taxation identification numbers.

Medical workers will scan a QR code on each ticket at vaccination venues to collect personal information, such as the time, date and place of the vaccination and the type of vaccine injected.

The government initially planned to record such data on vaccination registers managed by municipalities.

But vaccination register systems are different from one municipality to another. Furthermore, some municipalities still use paper-based systems.

Kono and others see the municipal systems as problematic from an efficiency standpoint.

They say municipalities will benefit from the planned system, as it will allow them to immediately grasp the inoculation situation in their communities.

COVID-19 vaccines will be administrated in two doses. With the new system, it will become possible to send reminders to citizens who moved after getting the first shot or who did not show up to receive the second shot.

The central government aims to put the system into operation in time for the start of vaccinations for older people, expected for as early as April.

The government plans to cover all costs related to the system. On Friday, however, Kono told a news conference that the size of related fiscal spending “has yet to be decided.”

Separately, the health ministry is developing its own system to manage the distribution of vaccines.

The government hopes that the combination of the two systems will help ensure that the massive nationwide vaccination project goes ahead smoothly.

Local governments, however, have concerns about the new systems. On Wednesday, the Japan Association of City Mayors told the central government that municipalities do not want to be saddled with an increase in administrative work.

“They won’t require a lot of work,” Kono replied, adding that local governments will only need to use flash memory sticks to transfer necessary data to the new systems.

Hirai also asked for understanding, saying, “The basic resident register system has already been linked to the My Number system.”

Many people do not like the idea of having personal information managed centrally by the state.

To help ease such misgivings, it is important to take full measures to prevent any leaks of personal information or any use of information for undesignated purposes.

To that end, the central government hopes to swiftly set details of the management and supervisory plan. “We’ll hold full talks with local governments” on the issue, Kono said.

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