The Immigration Services Agency (ISA) is set to open COVID-19 vaccination centers in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka specifically for foreign residents in order to give those struggling with language barriers easier access to the shots.

The centers will open next week in the three major cities, with interpreters covering 13 languages standing by to offer services at the sites.

“We’ve received many calls from foreign residents who don’t understand Japanese who said that they received their vaccination ticket but can’t make a reservation as they don’t know what’s written on it,” an Immigration Services Agency official said. “So that reminded us that there may be many foreign residents who are struggling to get vaccinated.”

Nationwide, 74.7% of some 127 million residents in the country, including 2.81 million foreign residents, have received their first COVID-19 vaccinations, while 66.1% are fully vaccinated, according to Cabinet Secretariat data. There is no data available on the vaccination rate specifically for foreign residents.

ISA’s Foreign Residents Support Center (FRESC) started accepting reservations on Monday in 18 languages. Vaccinations at the three venues are set to start next week, with no end date set for now.

Inoculations with the Pfizer vaccine will begin Wednesday at Tokyo Takanawa Hospital operated by Japan Community Health Care Organization, and at Nanko Hospital in Osaka’s Suminoe Ward.

Nagoya Congress Center, which is already being used as a mass vaccination venue for the general public, will offer first shots with Moderna Inc.’s vaccine next Tuesday and Wednesday only, with the second shots slated for Nov. 16 and 17. Because the mass inoculation site closes on Nov. 17, an alternative site is being planned for Nagoya to continue managing vaccination reservations through FRESC.

Those looking to make a reservation or receive more information can call FRESC at 03-4332-2601 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. The languages supported for making reservations are Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Khmer, Nepalese, Indonesian, Myanmar, Mongolian, French, Sinhalese, Urdu and Bengali.

Interpretation in 13 languages — all of the languages listed above except for Khmer, Mongolian, Sihalese, Urdu and Bengali — will also be available on the day of inoculation at the designated sites.

The program is for mid- to long-term residents, short-term residents who are having difficulties returning to their home countries and have stayed in Japan for three months or longer, and for those in the process of deportation. Eligible recipients do not need to live in the three cities to receive the jabs.

Foreign residents who wish to be vaccinated through the program need to present their vaccination tickets, which are distributed by the municipality in which they reside.

Those without tickets need to have them reissued by their local municipal government, which will require a document verifying a place of residence — such as a public utilities bill — as well as a form of identification, depending on the municipality.

If you don’t know how to get the tickets, you can also contact the FRESC help desk by calling toll-free at 0120-76-2029.

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