Japanese young people shying away from vaccination

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A male student is vaccinated at Sanyo-Onoda City University in Yamaguchi Prefecture on July 1.

FUKUOKA — As vaccinations against the novel coronavirus get into full swing for people aged under 65, a conspicuous number of young people are avoiding inoculations.

Vaccinating a wide range of ages is indispensable to preventing infections, prompting the central government to heighten its efforts to convey their importance to young people.

A 22 year-old man working part-time in Fukuoka City turned down a request from his father, who works at a hospital, for all their family to be vaccinated together. “I hear the side effects can be fatal,” the young man said, adding that his fears were amplified by the fact that a friend of a similar age developed a fever after getting inoculated.

Takayuki Harada, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Tsukuba, conducted an internet survey in April on about 600 people nationwide. More than 80% of respondents in their 60s and older said they would absolutely or probably get vaccinated, compared to only 30% of respondents in their 20s.

Harada believes this was fueled by the fact that the younger the person who is vaccinated, the higher the incidence of side effects. Also, a smaller percentage of young people fall seriously ill after being infected with the coronavirus than among the elderly.

“Young people are focusing on risk from side effects, rather than the benefits of vaccinations,” he said.

In a survey of all 1,074 students at Daiichi University of Pharmacy in Fukuoka City, only half wanted to receive a vaccine. As a result, the university canceled plans to inoculate students within university facilities.

University Vice President Takaaki Komatsu said, “Some students believed worrying statements on social media without questioning them.”

False information about vaccines has been circulating, mainly on social media, including claims that recipients’ genes will be altered or they will become sterile. Regulatory reform minister Taro Kono, who is in charge of vaccination efforts, has denied such false rumors on TV programs and on his website.

He appeared in a YouTube video popular with young people, making such comments as, “It’s being said that vaccinated lab mice died within two years, but the life span of such mice is two years.” Kono also said, “In the United States, there have been 200 million shots of vaccine administered, but no one has died from the vaccines.”

There have also been a number of cases in which vaccinations at workplaces and universities were suspended due to a shortage of vaccines, and young people have been unable to get inoculated even if they wanted to.

Fukuoka University in Fukuoka City postponed vaccinations for its students that were set for early July. An official in charge said, “As the vaccinations of students progresses, face-to-face classes can be conducted with peace of mind.”

Chiba University Hospital doctor Toshibumi Taniguchi runs “Cov-Navi,” a website on which more than 30 members, primarily doctors in Japan and abroad, provide information on vaccines.

Taniguchi said: “In many cases, even young people who are infected with the virus have aftereffects, and if they have an underlying disease, their condition becomes severe.

“They can spread the virus to older people who haven’t been vaccinated. Inoculating young people is important for society.”