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Coordination continues for vaccination of Japanese workers at U.S. military bases

Okinawa Times wrote on Monday that the GOJ remains cautious about the U.S. military’s idea of administering COVID-19 vaccines to Japanese base employees, quoting U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Nicholas Hill as telling Okinawa Governor Tamaki on May 27: “We have been conveying our desire to go ahead with the vaccination of Japanese workers, but the Japanese government has not responded.” In response to the governor’s call for swift vaccination, Defense Minister Kishi was noncommittal, citing legal and other obstacles. The GOJ is reportedly hesitant to endorse the proposal on the grounds that it will not be able to provide compensation for any health damage caused by vaccines administered on base since the program would be deemed an “official duty” of the U.S. military and hence would not be subject to Japanese laws and regulations. 

In response to a request for swift vaccination filed by Okinawa-elect Diet member Shimoji in late May, Deputy Chief of Mission Hill reportedly said, “It is difficult under the current circumstances.” An unnamed representative of the Japanese base workers union said many members would like to get vaccinated soon if possible, noting that the U.S. military regards unvaccinated workers as posing a “risk” since infectious diseases constitute a security threat. The article added that discussions are still underway between the U.S. military and the Defense Ministry, the employer of local base workers.

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