Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo reported that the U.S. and Japan formally agreed on Thursday that the U.S. military will administer COVID-19 vaccines to local employees at U.S. installations in Japan. In a joint document announcing the agreement, the two governments said the base vaccination program will “contribute to preventing the further spread of the coronavirus and guarantee the resilience of the U.S.-Japan alliance.” Some 26,000 base employees nationwide are reportedly eligible for the vaccination on a purely voluntary basis. Both sides reportedly confirmed that the U.S. military will not treat those who choose not to participate in the program unfairly. The vaccination records of individual employees will be maintained by the U.S. military and shared with relevant Japanese municipalities through the Defense Ministry. U.S. compensation coverage will apply in the event of severe side effects resulting in death or serious impairment.
Okinawa Times said the U.S. military wanted to vaccinate local workers quickly in the belief that unvaccinated employees pose a “security risk,” adding that some workers are cautious about getting vaccinated on base due to uncertainty over whether they will be covered by a U.S. relief program for vaccine side effects. Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that while many base employees in Okinawa were pleased with the agreement, quite a few were also skeptical, with a senior official of a base workers’ union emphasizing that since there are still many unanswered questions about the safety of the vaccines and the scope of the relief plan for vaccine side effects, it is doubtful whether many union members will participate in the base vaccination program.