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Tokyo mom helped thousands of people get vaccinated

Amid Japan’s slow vaccination rollout, this mom found a way to help

A Tokyo Metropolitan Government employee takes the Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine shot.
A Tokyo Metropolitan Government employee takes the Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine shot at a newly opened vaccination center at their building, Thursday, July 1, 2021, in Tokyo.
Eugene Hoshiko, Associated Press

Japan’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign started out very slowly. With rising outbreaks and the upcoming Olympic Games, many are concerned that not enough people are vaccinated to prevent further surges in coronavirus cases, reports NBC News.

Confusion about how to get a vaccine and where to book an appointment led LaShawn Toyoda, a Tokyo mom and software engineer, to launch a database that made scheduling vaccination appointments easy for non-Japanese speakers, reports Reuters.

  • About 36,000 people have used Toyoda’s database to find a vaccine, Reuters said.

What is Japan’s vaccination campaign like?

Japan’s vaccine rollout has been complicated by limitations of supply and restrictions on the medical professionals allowed to administer doses, says NBC News. After months of low vaccination rates, Japan has begun administering more than 1 million doses a day.

  • Still, only 8% of the population is fully vaccinated, reports NBC News.
  • About 23% of Japan’s population is partially vaccinated, says Reuters.

The Japanese government has prioritized vaccinating health care workers and elderly populations. To expand their efforts, the government has allowed municipalities and companies to create their own systems to administer vaccines, says Reuters.

  • This means that, for the general public, vaccine access varies wildly depending on where an individual lives and where they work, Reuters said.

According to Toyoda, the vaccination rollout missed one group: non-Japanese speakers.

How did one mom in Tokyo make a difference?

Toyoda explained to Reuters that “there was no news available in any language other than Japanese about when they would be able to get vaccinated, how they could get vaccinated or where.”

  • “I told my husband, ‘Watch our daughter, I gotta make something,’” Toyoda said per Reuters.

Newly skilled in coding as a software engineer, Toyoda got to work building a database — Find a Doc — that connected clinics with extra vaccines to non-Japanese speakers looking for vaccines. When the database launched on June 13, there were two clinics, Reuters says. Now, the database has grown to almost 70 clinics.

  • Last week, Toyoda booked her first vaccine appointment through her database.
  • Over 36,000 people have used Toyoda’s database to find a vaccine, Reuters says.