• Kyodo

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The government on Sunday started administering COVID-19 vaccine shots at Narita and Haneda airports to citizens who temporarily return from abroad to be inoculated.

Those given the shots include people living in places that use vaccines not approved by Japan, as well as residents of some developing countries where the vaccine rollout has been slow.

The government decided to start the inoculations for returnees before the Bon holiday season in mid-August after a Foreign Ministry survey showed many Japanese living abroad who have not yet been inoculated wished to receive shots in Japan, government officials said.

Shunsuke Hosoi, a 38-year-old employee of an auto parts maker returning from Vietnam, lined up to receive a vaccine at a venue set up for inoculations at Narita Airport near Tokyo.

“In Vietnam where inoculations have not progressed, many people are feeling inconvenienced, as they are restricted from going out,” Hosoi said. “I want the Japanese government to increase opportunities for Japanese nationals to receive shots.”

At a similar venue at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, people lined up before the opening at 10 a.m. to receive the shots.

“When you live abroad, it is sometimes burdensome to receive medical services similar to those offered in Japan,” said a man in his 50s who had returned from Italy. “I am thankful for this kind of measure.”

The government plans to operate the venues at Haneda and Narita airports through early January, administering two doses of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine to people age 12 and over who do not have certificates of residence in Japan.

The shots are offered for free, although returnees need to shoulder their own travel expenses. Applicants need to book reservations on a special website set up by the Foreign Ministry, the officials said.

Returnees can receive the inoculations either on the day of their return before undergoing a two-week quarantine period or after the period ends.

The reservations can only be made via the website, which accepts bookings from two months before the date of inoculation and up to a week beforehand.

Vaccination certificates will be issued after the second dose of the vaccine for those who wish to have them, the officials said.

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