Dec 28, 2017
Getting the Flu Vaccine in Japan
I was wary about getting flu shots here in Japan until one day I dropped off my daughter at school and I saw this sign: インフルエンザ １３名 ("Influenza: 13 people"). It was then and there I told myself we're all getting the shot.
If you have kids, you know that any sickness tends to go around and around the house until everyone has fallen ill. It's one thing to suffer through continuous bouts of colds and fevers in the house, but the flu is a next-level challenge that we just do not want to fight.
So I headed over to the local clinic to find out about flu shots in Japan, and I wanted to share with the expat community what I learned, just in case other folks have been contemplating getting it for themselves or members of their family.
[Please note that this is applicable only for folks covered under National Health Insurance. I can't speak for those with private health insurance coverage.]
The Flu Shot is not a mandatory vaccine under the Ministry of Health's policies, so you have to sign up and pay separately to receive it (children included). Major hospitals generally will not offer the flu vaccine except on specially designated days. If you want to walk in, you'll need to go to a smaller hospital or clinic. Clinics are your best bet if you want same day shots.
At the clinic, you should be able to find a designated table or stand with flu vaccine forms. They have the forms for children from 1-12, and then people from 13-65 years old. I asked, and the doctors here do not recommend (i.e. they will not give) flu shots to children under 1 or adults over 65, which is why they do not put forms out for those age groups.
Although the forms should be available at any time, the clinic will most likely have a set time period in which to administer the shots. For example, my clinic only offered children's flu shots from 10:30-11:30 and 16:30-17:30.
Bring whoever is getting the shot (yourself or your family members) to the clinic at the appointed time with the appropriate forms already filled out. [Note: you'll need to do a quick temperature check for your kids]. At that point, the staff will ask you to wait with all of the other patients waiting for flu shots.
First, you'll be seen by a doctor who will review the form and confirm that you are healthy enough to receive the shot. Some docs may give you the shot then and there. At my clinic, we were asked to return to the waiting area for another person to deliver the vaccine.
Upon being called up the second time, nurses will administer the shots, and then will probably ask you to return once again to the waiting area until the records can be certified and invoices drawn up.
Finally, you'll pay the fee (around 1500-2500 yen per vaccine) and get the records. And there you have it--flu free (hopefully) for the season!
Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.
Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).