Getting the COVID Vaccine in Rural Japan

person wearing white and brown sandal

This morning I had my first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine here in Sakata City, Yamagata Prefecture. It was a relatively painless process, and besides a bit of a sore arm, and maybe a slight fever, I haven't been feeling much else (my wife said my voice changed though). It's still early days, but here's hoping I get off lightly. I purposely did it on a Sunday, and I wanted to get in early so I booked the earliest time possible, 8:30. I arrived at about 8:15 to find people were already lining up, but I quickly got inside and was out by 8:50, then home shortly thereafter.

Getting a booking

Bookings for over 12s opened early on Tuesday morning. Until then the bookings were open for 50+ and weirdly also those of high-school and university exam-taking age. They had priority over me, the little buggers, but I've had my shot so shouldn't really complain. Plus, they have to navigate schools here where there have been a few cases. We haven't had any scares at our uni, yet at least, although honestly I do wish we'd do online classes just because there is a risk of infection still. Their risk is probably greater though.

In all honesty, bookings for people who have pre-existing conditions were open one day earlier than for the general public. I used my pneumothorax as an excuse, but it seems I didn't actually need to. My second dose was automatically booked for 3 weeks from now, which was another reason I had to go for a Sunday. I timed it with our uni actually, as they will be administering the vaccine to students on the same day I get my second, so the following day is a day off class.

The experience getting the vaccine

The experience was rather insightful, in good and bad ways. We first lined up, with people not really following any social distancing rules, although there was tape on the ground at about 1m intervals. You walk in, get your temperature taken, and then are asked to sit in a row of seats that have been numbered. I was number 31, so was relatively early in the day. The thing is though, these seats were right next to each other. If you just reached out your hand you could touch the lap of the person next to you, or the shoulder of the person in front of you. So much for social distancing. Then we all had to line up, thankfully this was about a metre apart, but we kept having to cross paths with people, and got very close when we did.

First we had to take our pre-vaccine form to someone to check, and then go and talk to a doctor who checked the items on a checklist we had already filled out. Once that was done, we lined up and went into a booth to get a shot. It was very quick, less than a minute, and for me I hardly felt it at all. Much better than when getting a blood test. After that we got confirmation of our first vaccines with a sticker system they were using, and we just had to wait 15 minutes before we were let out.

Some advice for getting the vaccine

A bit of advice to those who are yet to get it, in retrospect I wish I had chosen a later time in the day so I could have climbed a mountain before going, but it is what it is, and I got to enjoy a quiet day at home watching movies and catching up on a bit of writing. Bring a book with you as well, it's a good chance to get in some reading. Don't forget to drink a lot of water as well! I have already had at least two litres today!

In all, the experience was very brief, as it was quite streamlined, but it was odd to see medical professionals not adhering to social-distancing rules. Anyway, I wish to thank everyone that had a part in getting the vaccine to us. It is such an important tool in keeping us all safe.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan

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