Scientists are investigating Japan’s remarkable success with the Corona virus in the search for a new vaccine to protect some of the most vulnerable groups

Tokyo Notable in Japan Corona Virus Epidemiological resilience has generated dozens of potential explanations, from the state’s preference not to wear shoes indoors, to the purported nature of low-aerosol generation of quiet conversations in Japan, to the beneficial gut bacteria of its citizens. Even religiosity – which is said to have saved the Japanese from exposure to crowded houses of worship – has been described as a virtue in the age of COVID-19.

Despite having the largest population in the world, with one in three people aged 65 or older living, Japan has a per capita COVID death rate lower than almost any other developed country. As of Thursday, Japan has recorded only 246 deaths from COVID-19 per million people, surpassing even New Zealand (263) which initially adopted a strategy of maximum suppression. By comparison, the United States has a cumulative toll of 3,045 deaths per million people.

But Covid death statistics alone, which are often based on inconsistent and/or incomplete records, do not tell the whole story. Researchers estimate that Japan has 111,000 “excess deaths,” more than five times the number of reported COVID deaths, when deaths from disruptive medical care and social disruption are taken into account.


Japan’s escort robots help people suffering from epidemic disease have the only smile and help patients recover during times of coronavirus isolation

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Japan’s excess death rate, at 44 per 100,000, far exceeds that of South Korea (4), Singapore (-15), Australia (-37), New Zealand (-9); China (0.6) and Taiwan (-5). Even less affluent Vietnam and Thailand fared better.

But compared to the US (179) and Europe (140), Japan is still ahead. Some experts believe that the glory of this relative success is due first and foremost to the Japanese citizens, for their own sake Prepare to cooperate with antiviral measures.

“Japan’s approach to responding to COVID has been primarily based on people’s efforts,” not on imposing mandates, Kenji Shibuya, director of research at the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, told CBS News. “These kinds of voluntary efforts, rather than drastic top-down measures, have worked.”

Peer pressure to wear face masks remains such a force in Japan – even as heatstroke season approaches – that the National Health Ministry has been forced to issue a pamphlet urging people Not Wear masks when they are out walking their dogs, riding their bikes, running or just walking to work.

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Image from an online brochure released by the Japanese Ministry of Health in June 2022, urging people not to wear masks when outside walking their dogs, riding their bikes, running or just walking to work as the summer heats up.

Japanese Ministry of Health


In addition to the use of masks almost everywhere, the Japanese vaccination program, initially delayed but implemented quickly, is credited with saving lives. Despite initial concerns about vaccine frequency, two-thirds of citizens and about 90% of the elderly received booster doses.

It also helped Japan’s generally healthy population resist the epidemic. Lifespans continued to expand for four decades, giving the Japanese the highest average lifespan on Earth at 87 years for women and 81 years for men. While the obesity rate in the United States has ballooned to nearly 42% in 2020, Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world, at around 4%.

Thanks to the universal health insurance system, rates of cancer and heart disease are also low. Like obesity, these diseases are the primary primary risk factors for complications from coronavirus infection.

Meanwhile, scientists have been investigating a theory that the Japanese may have an inherent advantage at the cellular level when it comes to fighting COVID.

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People gather at Rinko Park during the Yokohama Port Festival, which was held for the first time in three years with no restrictions on the number of attendees and less stringent restrictions over the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Yokohama, Japan, June 2, 2022.

Philip Fong/AFP/Getty


Researchers at the state-funded RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences have poked fun at human leukocyte antigens (HLA), proteins found in most cells in all of our bodies, as a potential antiviral defense. HLA markers are known in the field of organ transplantation, where matching of HLA types, not just blood types, is essential to reduce the chance of organ rejection.

The Riken study found that Japanese people with type HLA A24, common here and in some other parts of Asia, develop “reactive” T cells in response to seasonal coronaviruses, or common colds, which can be re-circulated to kill COVID-19 infections much faster and more effectively than those who lack that specific mark.

Shin Ichiro Fujii, who leads the study, told CBS News that he has applied for clinical trials of a vaccine targeting immunocompromised cancer patients that mimics the benefit of having HLA-type A24 proteins in people unable to develop neutralizing antibodies. of existing vaccines.

“The real hope is that we will be able to develop vaccines that can induce a strongly targeted response by T cells against infection,” he said in a statement. “We’ve shown that this can be possible in this particular group of HLA, but now we need to look at the species.” other”.

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