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Like many foreign residents in Japan, Luan Yong Jie from China had found it difficult to make a reservation for a COVID-19 vaccination — a process that can be daunting even for a Japanese person — because of his limited Japanese ability.

But on Wednesday, the 35-year-old got his first shot at a Tokyo vaccination center that opened on Wednesday specifically for foreign residents who face a language barrier.

“I’m happy now,” Luan said in Japanese after receiving a shot. “I can speak Japanese a little, but I couldn’t make reservations by phone or online at all. I came here because I am able to speak Chinese here.”

Luan was one of seven foreign residents from five countries who got a COVID-19 vaccine dose at Tokyo Takanawa Hospital.

The Immigration Services Agency (ISA) has opened multilingual vaccination sites in three major cities — Tokyo and Osaka on Wednesday, and Nagoya the previous day. An interpretation service for 13 languages is provided via teleconference so that foreign residents can understand what the doctors and nurses are saying.

The ISA’s Foreign Residents Support Center (FRESC) has been accepting reservations in 18 languages since last week.

Dhara Huervana, 15, talks with a doctor at a vaccination site for foreign residents on Wednesday in Tokyo while an interpreter translates the conversation into English via a tablet computer. | OSAMU TSUKIMORI
Dhara Huervana, 15, talks with a doctor at a vaccination site for foreign residents on Wednesday in Tokyo while an interpreter translates the conversation into English via a tablet computer. | OSAMU TSUKIMORI

Fifteen-year-old Filipino Dhara Huervana received her first COVID-19 vaccination after her parents heard about the vaccination centers.

Her parents were vaccinated through a Japanese shipping company her father works for, but it was not available for the children of its employees.

“It feels good,” she said.

Nationwide, 75.8% of some 127 million people in the country, including 2.81 million foreign residents, had received their first COVID-19 vaccinations as of Tuesday, according to Cabinet Secretariat data, while 68% were fully vaccinated. There is no data available on the vaccination rate specifically for foreign residents.

Inoculations with the Pfizer Inc. vaccine also began at Nanko Hospital in Osaka’s Suminoe Ward, with no end date for operations having yet been set. The Tokyo center is accepting reservations for first COVID-19 shots through the end of November at least, with the second dose available in December.

Nagoya Congress Center, which is already being used as a mass vaccination venue for the general public, offered first shots using Moderna Inc.’s vaccine for just two days through Wednesday, with the second doses slated for Nov. 16 and 17. Fujita Health University Bantane Hospital in the city will administer first shots from next Tuesday through Friday, with the second doses slated for Nov. 16 through 19. Reservations for that center will start Friday.

A search is underway for a site in Nagoya that can accept reservations through November, an ISA official said.

Luan Yong Jie speaks with a doctor through an interpreter via a tablet computer at a vaccination center for foreign residents on Wednesday in Tokyo. | OSAMU TSUKIMORI
Luan Yong Jie speaks with a doctor through an interpreter via a tablet computer at a vaccination center for foreign residents on Wednesday in Tokyo. | OSAMU TSUKIMORI

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 those listed above except for Khmer, Mongolian, Sihalese, Urdu and Bengali — will also be available at the designated sites.

The program is for mid- to long-term residents, short-term residents who are having difficulty returning to their home country 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 shots.

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