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Expectations are high that licensed nurses who are not employed at medical facilities can help speed up Japan’s coronavirus vaccination rollout, but obstacles remain, including inflexible working hours.

“I could cooperate if I give shots at a local clinic in the mornings,” said a 38-year-old woman in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, who worked as a nurse at a hospital before quitting six years ago after becoming pregnant.

The woman, who feels frustrated every time she sees a media report about the shortage of personnel to administer vaccines, is now looking for a job on the condition that she only works while her child is attending preschool.

She also wants to work at a clinic rather than at a group vaccination site out of fear she could catch the virus, but so far has been unable to find a job that meets her requirements.

A dearth of doctors and nurses to administer shots is one of the factors behind Japan’s slow inoculation rollout, which has sped up significantly in recent weeks but still lags far behind other developed countries.

The government has added dentists and trainee doctors to the list of medical professionals authorized to give jabs and is exploring other possibilities including using former nurses and paramedics.

As of 2010, there were around 710,000 qualified nurses under 65 years old who were not employed at medical facilities in the country, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Another former nurse, a 30-year-old woman in Akishima, western Tokyo, has also looked for a way to help with the rollout. She quit her job four years ago after getting married and moving.

As of 2010, there were around 710,000 qualified nurses under 65 years old who were not employed at medical facilities in the country, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. | KYODO
As of 2010, there were around 710,000 qualified nurses under 65 years old who were not employed at medical facilities in the country, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. | KYODO

She found a local job offer for administrating coronavirus vaccines but ultimately decided not to pursue a position because she could not secure child care services.

“I was interested but the timing did not match,” she said.

According to a March online survey conducted by a recruiting firm on 1,545 unemployed licensed nurses age 21 to 54, 63.5% of them had positive views about the prospect of joining the country’s vaccination campaign.

Of the respondents, 18.6% said they would apply for a job to administer vaccines and 44.9% said they would consider applying depending on what they were expected to do and the working conditions.

In the survey by DIP Corp., the operator of recruiting portal site Baitoru, 36.5% said they were not interested in being part of the inoculation drive.

Some respondents asked about the risk of infection and whether there are measures in place to deal with emergencies such as serious adverse reactions by vaccine recipients.

Others wanted to know whether the job was only temporary or if it would come with long-term prospects, according to the survey.

In analyzing the survey results, DIP said that while many respondents are looking to work shorter hours, employers are reluctant to recruit part-time nurses because it involves more work in training and assigning them duties.

“We hope to support diverse working styles so that those with (nursing) licenses can use their expertise,” a DIP official said.

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