Explore ways to use vaccination certificates, prevent discrimination

How should restrictions be eased on the activities of vaccinated people? Concrete steps need to be drawn up as soon as possible, based on trends both overseas and in Japan.

The government will accept applications for COVID-19 vaccination certificates from Monday. Municipalities across the nation are scheduled to handle the applications.

Certificates will initially be issued for those planning to travel abroad. In an anticipated scenario, travelers would be eligible for relaxed epidemic control measures in destination countries if they present their certificates.

According to the Foreign Ministry, five countries, including Italy and Poland, will apply relaxed measures to the holders of vaccination certificates issued by Japan, for example exempting them from quarantine when they enter the country. This could help Japan restart international travel.

In principle, Japan has banned the new entry of foreign travelers, while asking those who are allowed to enter Japan for special reasons to quarantine for 14 days. Based on the principle of reciprocity, Japan’s vaccination certificates will be valid in only a limited number of countries as a result.

People who wish to obtain a certificate must submit records that they receive after being vaccinated, along with their passports and other necessary documents. After confirming the applicant’s vaccination history through the national record system, municipalities will issue vaccination certificates with their names written in Romaji, dates of inoculation and other information, according to the government.

It is vital for the central and local governments to widely inform people about vaccination certificates and establish an administrative system to prevent confusion at the counters that accept applications.

At the moment, the central government does not intend to use the vaccination certificates domestically, but the business community has been a vocal proponent of using such certificates to ease restrictions.

The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) has proposed that holders of vaccination certificates be given discounts on food and beverage charges and facility fees, and that the certificates be used for events. A growing number of companies have already offered benefits such as services and discounts when customers present documents showing they have been inoculated against COVID-19.

It is natural that the restaurant, hotel and other industries, which have been in dire straits for a long period of time, would try to seek a way out by boosting consumption among those who have been fully vaccinated.

On the other hand, some people want to get vaccinated but cannot do so because of illness or other reasons. To prevent such people from being put at a disadvantage, it is essential to show them such consideration as using negative results of PCR or other tests as an alternative.

In addition, practices that could lead to unfair discrimination are unacceptable, such as making the vaccination certificates a condition for enrollment or employment.

The government should sort out the relevant issues swiftly and draw up guidelines on certificate use to prevent their being used inappropriately. A clear line must be specified to strike a balance between preventing infections and resuming economic activities.

In some Western countries, inoculation rates have peaked among young people. The Japanese government is urged to carefully explain the significance of vaccinations and encourage young people to get shots.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 25, 2021.