Oct 7, 2017
If you're like me, one of the most stressful things about moving to a foreign country as a parent is securing health care for your children. Whatever your personal feelings are about vaccination, I wanted to ensure that my children stay on a similar schedule as to what they would receive in the United States. I wanted to share with you, the reader, some of the lessons I learned about getting my children vaccinated to help ease your transition to Japan.
For those of you who have separate health care providers (like Tokyo medical and surgery clinic, for example), the process for registering your children and ensuring they are on their vaccination schedule is similar to what it is back in the United States or commensurate health care systems: the hospital will schedule regular check-ups and give the vaccines at those check-ups.
For folks on Japan's National Health Insurance that go to Japanese hospitals, however, the system is a bit different, so allow me to offer a quick guide.
Step 1: Get a 母子手帳 Boshi teccho
This "Mother-Child Book" is an all important book for parents in Japan which detail all of the major health care events from birth until the child has completed all of his/her routine check ups and vaccinations. If you don't have one, that's okay--you can get one made. I recommend taking all of your medical records to a bilingual medical center in Japan and requesting that they transcribe the records into a bilingual boshi-teccho. It'll cost between 5000-10,000 yen, but it will make health care for your children infinitely easier.
Step 2: Register for National Health Insurance (NHI) at your local city office
When you register for NHI, the city office will ask to see your child's medical records. Hopefully you'll have your boshi-teccho in hand, which will make the process much easier. Some city offices will accept vaccination records in English, but they may ask you to get a certified translation. Once the city officer has recorded your children's vaccinations, they'll know when to contact you for the next round of shots.
Step 3: Receive vaccination vouchers in the mail
The city office will send you vouchers in the mail for vaccinations according to the schedule prescribed by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. It is commensurate with world-leading medical standards, but if you have some concerns about Japan's vaccination regimes, see the "NOTE" section below.
Step 4: Make an appointment at your local hospital/receive the vaccination
Every hospital is different, of course, but many of the larger hospitals will have set hours for pediatric vaccinations. They'll ask you to set up an appointment to come during a certain window (maybe 1:30 to 3:30), and you'll be in an assembly line behind other parents looking to get their children vaccinated. Get in line, get your children poked, and you're done! While your children may disagree, it is a fairly painless process!
NOTE: Matching your home country's vaccination schedule
The Japanese health care system's vaccination schedule for children is commensurate with the United States and other western countries. There are a few minor differences, though (for example, Japan does not include mumps or Hepatitis A in the scheduled regime), and you may want to add those. That is no big deal. Most big Japanese hospitals will have those types of vaccines on hand, but you will just have to request them. There will be an additional fee, of course, but if you are covered under NHI, then the normal pricing applies (30% cost to you, the rest goes to the city). Be sure to check your home country's vaccination schedule and compare it to the vaccine schedule available at your local hospital if you are curious or worried.
If you have any additional questions or tips for parents out there, feel free to share in the comments section below!
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).