The Japanese government is considering issuing certificates from this summer to coronavirus vaccine recipients that would assist them with overseas travel, government sources have said.
With a growing number of countries checking visitors' inoculation records as a border control measure, the "vaccine passport" is expected to facilitate business travel, the sources said Monday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato is heading a preparation team comprised foreign and health ministry officials that are looking into the issue. The team is considering specifying in the certificate the date of vaccination and the maker of the shot administered.
The vaccine passport will initially be a paper certificate. But in the future it may be a smartphone app, the sources said.
If the government decides to issue the certificate, it would then negotiate with other countries on whether Japanese nationals with the certificate would be exempt from quarantine after entry and on how Japan would treat visitors with similar certificates.
Referring to concerns in some countries that issuing such a certificate would lead to discrimination against unvaccinated people, Kato said, "We will hold more discussions to respond well to moves overseas."
As Japan's vaccination rollout picks up speed, Tokyo opened a mass inoculation center Tuesday at the now-closed Tsukiji fish market, while companies and universities began applying the same day for permission to conduct on-site vaccinations starting later this month.
The new vaccination routes, supplementing existing efforts being led by local municipalities, are hoped to further accelerate the country's inoculation drive, which has lagged far behind other developed nations.
The metropolitan government plans to administer doses of a vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc. to 5,000 people a day, initially targeting police officers and firefighters, and 110,000 people in total by the end of June at the Tsukiji site.
The scope of recipients at the site will expand from those working at the Metropolitan Police Department and Tokyo Fire Department to volunteer members of local fire corps, acupuncturists, osteopaths and others age 64 or younger.
"I'm relieved to receive a shot. But since I just got the first (of the two doses), I'll continue thorough anti-virus measures," said a 42-year-old Tokyo Fire Department official.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters that the metropolitan government will further improve the running of the Tsukiji vaccination site to increase the efficiency of the inoculation campaign.
The vacant lot that formerly hosted the fish market can only be used until the end of June as it will become a major transportation hub for the Tokyo Olympics slated to begin in late July. The metropolitan government is scheduled to open a new mass vaccination site at Yoyogi Park in the capital.
Japan launched its inoculation drive in February starting with health care workers and later expanded it to people aged 65 and older. The government aims to complete the vaccinations of the older people by the end of July.
Mass vaccination centers have already been set up by the central government in Tokyo and Osaka, while some other prefectural governments have also established them to speed up the vaccine rollout.
Universities and companies have been preparing to hold on-site vaccinations for staff, students and employees from June 21, using the Moderna vaccine. Under the plan, the organizations need to secure venues and medical personnel on their own, while the state will shoulder the costs in principle.
"Together with the inoculation program implemented by local governments, we will make utmost efforts so that more people can receive vaccinations as soon as possible," Kato said Tuesday, referring to the planned campaigns at workplaces and universities.
Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the country's vaccination efforts, said some workplaces and universities may start inoculations earlier than June 21.
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