Local Clinics in Japan Prepare to Become Vaccination Sites

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hitoshi Mio, center, sees a patient at Mio Clinic in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward in February.

With COVID-19 vaccinations for the elderly starting in April, local clinics will become the main vaccination site for many municipalities. The staff will be required to take on new tasks, such as scheduling appointments and monitoring a patient’s health after they have received the vaccine. However, clinics are usually short-staffed, and the work will only increase. Many issues need to be addressed, including measures to prevent the clinic from becoming overcrowded.

Overcrowding concerns

“We are a small clinic so, it may become crowded,” said Hitoshi Mio, 60, the doctor at Mio Clinic in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward. “Securing enough space is a headache for us.”

The clinic sees about 40 to 50 patients a day, mainly young children up to preschool age. Mio is the only doctor at the clinic, and on days when there are a lot of patients, he is considering giving vaccinations before the clinic opens on weekdays. He is also considering vaccinating patients on days when the clinic is normally closed.

There will also be an increase in the amount of administrative work required, such as scheduling appointments and reporting to the government regarding vaccinations. This will mainly be taken care of by three nurses and two administrative staff.

After a person is vaccinated, they need to stay at the clinic for a certain period of time so the staff can monitor their health. However, there is not enough space. The waiting area can seat 15 people, but the number of seats is now reduced to avoid crowding. The clinic is currently using an exam room and a hallway behind its reception desk as an extension of its waiting area.

Although the clinic faces many issues, Mio believes that there are advantages to being vaccinated at a local clinic as opposed to at a large vaccination venue. Family doctors are aware of their patients’ health, and Mio expects patients will feel more at ease going in to be vaccinated.

“Vaccinations will allow people to return to their pre-pandemic life,” he said. “Each clinic will do its best to deal with the situation, so please get vaccinated.”

Easy-to-understand pamphlets

The Japan Medical Association, comprised of doctors who run their own practices and other doctors and medical professionals nationwide, is hurrying to establish a vaccination system for appointment based vaccinations at local clinics, saying it is important for people to receive vaccinations at local medical institutions they are familiar with.

The association is currently preparing a pamphlet for clinics to give to their patients that will provide information on the effects and side-effects of the vaccine. The association is also considering making it available to the public.

Meanwhile, local governments have been appealing to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry about the difficulties of securing enough waiting space for patients at local clinics. The ministry is proposing the use of parking lots, among other measures, to resolve the issue. The ministry plans to release a video on its website explaining the work flow at a vaccination site.