Getting vaccinated and the race against time

Race for an appoinment

After weeks of trial and error attempting to grab an appointment through Japan’s Ministry of Defense’s Tokyo mass COVID-19 vaccination website, I finally secured an appointment to receive my first dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last Friday. The process to secure an appointment was straightforward – I opened a web browser, stood by at the vaccination appointment website, and waited for the booking webpage to become available.

An overview to get vaccinated at the Tokyo mass vaccination site is as follows:

  1. Request for a COVID-19 vaccination coupon to be sent to your residence from the municipal (city) office
  2. Wait until the vaccination coupon is delivered to your residence
  3. Once the vaccination coupon has been delivered, browse the vaccination appointment website
  4. Check if there are empty slots available for 1st dose vaccination
  5. If there are no empty slots, wait for the next appointment round
  6. If there are empty slots available, enter the relevant info from the vaccination coupon (city code and coupon number), and pick the suitable date/time
  7. Confirm the information entered and appointment date
  8. Go for the 1st vaccination

As easy as it sounds, it is difficult to secure an appointment due to the limited appointment seats available per week (2,100 for Tokyo site), hence, the website always received large amount of traffic moments before the appointment page is available for use. To compensate for this, a static webpage that said “Please wait for your turn. This page will refresh by itself after a while.” is displayed to the end users while they queued and waited for their turn.

In the first few weeks after I received my vaccination coupon, I failed to secure an appointment due to the sheer amount of traffic hampering the page. However, third time’s a charm, and I managed to grab an appointment through the website last Friday within minutes the appointment service is opened to the public.

“Wednesday at 8:30 am”, I quickly chose the date/time and hurriedly clicked the Confirm button. After a while, a page that showed “Your appointment schedule is as follows…” appeared. I felt a huge relief when it showed a confirmed appointment with the exact date/time that I had chosen earlier.

Race against time

“Residents in Japan are guaranteed to receive their vaccines, so there is no need for a rush.”, said a senior Japanese government official as I watched the TV. According to a schedule set by the Japanese government, willing residents will have their vaccinations completed by the end of November this year.

However, with the surge of the Delta variant infection that progressively became mainstream in Japan and the world, I could not help but to think that more people ought to get vaccinated earlier to prevent hospitals from being severely burdened.

With more newer, potentially stronger COVID-19 variants likely to appear in the future, I think it is fair to say that it is currently a race against time to get protected earlier to reduce the risks from being hospitalized and suffer from serious symptoms.

Based on the schedule in my local municipality, I am scheduled to be vaccinated sometime after August with the Pfizer vaccine, however, since there is a choice to get vaccinated earlier, I grabbed any chances there are.

Getting vaccinated, 1st dose

A board showing the direction for the reception counter for COVID-19 vaccination at Japan’s Ministry of Defense Self-Defense Force Tokyo mass vaccination center

I went for my first shot at this Wednesday cloudy morning in Tokyo after an hour of train ride. The vaccination site was not jam-packed, but it had quite a number of people. However, social distances, etc. were properly practiced.

The vaccination process was roughly as follows:

  1. Temperature check
  2. Questioning – first or second time receiving the dose, health condition check to confirm the eligibility to receive a dose
  3. Moving to another building – segregated into different groups (first dose group, second dose group, etc.)
  4. Questioning – personal information confirmation, health condition check
  5. Receive a vaccination shot – I immediately felt a numb and pain in the injection area at my left arm
  6. Undergo observation period (in my case, 15 minutes) with other people at a hall
  7. Once the observation period time is up, leave the hall and exit the building
  8. Complete

After step 5 in the process above, I couldn’t raise my left arm properly, and felt a faint pain and swollen at the part where I received my shot. However, I had not had other symptoms (e.g. fever, headache, etc.) afterwards. At the time of writing, the faint pain and swollen had greatly subsided, and I can raise and properly utilize my left arm again.

Definitely looking forward for the 2nd shot not far from now.

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