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Chief Master Sgt. Rick Winegardner Jr., senior enlisted leader for U.S. Forces Japan, receives the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.
Chief Master Sgt. Rick Winegardner Jr., senior enlisted leader for U.S. Forces Japan, receives the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (U.S. Forces Japan)

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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Two U.S. military bases in Japan moved into phase two of coronavirus vaccinations this week, one step closer to opening up inoculations for the general population of service members, civilian employees and their families.

Yokota Air Base, the headquarters in western Tokyo of U.S. Forces Japan, on Wednesday started immunizing service members deploying in the next three months and patients age 65 and older facing added risk from the coronavirus, according to a base spokesman.

Phase one personnel, including emergency medical providers, first responders and security forces, are still eligible.

“The specific groups have been selected based on medical necessity and continuation of mission essential operations and services,” base spokesman 1st Lt. Stuart Thrift told Stars and Stripes via email Wednesday.

Yokosuka Naval Base, 35 miles south of Tokyo and homeport of the U.S. 7th Fleet, started phase two on Tuesday, according to its Facebook page.

Yokota and Yokosuka are the only U.S. installations in Japan in phase two of a three-phase vaccination plan laid out by the Department of Defense. Distribution started with frontline workers after the first shipments of the Moderna vaccine arrived at six U.S. bases Dec. 26 and continues to the largest group, the healthy population.

Phase 1.b covers personnel preparing to deploy; phase two covers high-risk patients.

The Moderna vaccine, approved in December by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, is still voluntary. It is administered in two doses, 28 days apart.

Yokota will continue administering the vaccine from 8-11 a.m. Thursday at the Samurai Fitness Center, according to a Facebook post by the 374th Medical Group.

The medical group announced Wednesday that it is contacting patients who qualify for this round of inoculations, but senior patients who have not received a call from their service provider can still show up to get the vaccine. They should wear a mask and bring their DOD ID cards and a pen to fill out forms.

Naval Hospital Yokosuka said that individuals there “at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19” are eligible to receive the vaccine. COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

Eligible patients at Yokosuka may receive notification from their medical providers, according to the post. They, too, should wear a mask, have their DOD ID cards and a pen.

According to spokespeople from Kadena Air Base, Camp Zama, Misawa Air Base, Naval Hospital Okinawa and Naval Air Facility Atsugi, there is no fixed timeline for moving through the next vaccination phases, and patients will be made aware as soon as new shipments become available.

Spokespeople from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni did not immediately respond to phone and email queries Wednesday. Twitter: @ThisEarlGirl

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