The initial reaction to the government’s proposed rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination on social media has been decidedly muted.
As a result, the apparent apathy has several experts worried that a number of people are simply trying to ride out the pandemic at the expense of those getting inoculated.
As of March 30, more than 850,000 people in Japan had been given a vaccination but less than 100,000 of these patients had been inoculated twice, according to data published by Nikkei V-Data at the end of last month. The majority of people currently receiving the injections are medical staff on the front lines of the health system.
Some of the aforementioned apathy probably comes down the lack of clear information from health authorities. Plenty of people are still anxious about the effectiveness of the vaccine, as well as any side effects it might have.
“I hear that people overseas are getting the shots and then dying from it,” one Twitter user wrote. “Are we really willing to do that to ourselves?”
A site called CoV-Navi has been created to separate fact from fiction and hopefully alleviate such concerns. The site’s social media threads are filled with posts that try to dispel information that’s inaccurate. Its Twitter account currently boasts 19,600 followers and a slightly less popular YouTube channel features several videos of socially distanced discussions with titles such as “A Thorough Commentary on Anaphylaxis.”
Sohtaro Mine, a virus and immunology expert who is one of the founders of CoV-Navi, appeared in an interview with Tokyo Shimbun in March. Mine says he has already received two vaccination shots in the United States.
“I received the Moderna vaccine on consecutive days,” he told the newspaper. “I initially experienced no pain whatsoever. After I got the second shot, however, I experienced cold-like symptoms that left me feeling very tired for a day. On rare occasions, some report feeling worse symptoms. But there’s no denying that the merits of getting vaccinated far outweigh any side effects. The government needs to do a better job explaining the vaccination programs accurately in order to reduce public anxiety.”
Earlier this year, the Jan. 21 edition of weekly magazine Shukan Shincho published an article that focused on the pros and cons of a vaccination.
Kunio Yano of Shizuoka Prefecture, who has treated more than 400 COVID-19 patients, says the vaccination program is the only way to be certain the entire population is protected against the virus.
“It’s important to note that the vaccine should keep COVID-19 patients from becoming seriously ill,” Yano told the magazine. “If we can keep older people and those with preexisting conditions alive through the pandemic, then this virus will become just another cold. The only way to turn
COVID-19 into a common cold is for everyone to be vaccinated.”
Still, Masahiko Okada, an honorary professor at Niigata University, told the same magazine that he refused to be vaccinated, arguing that the side effects have yet to be fully tested and understood, and that medical experts have not yet ruled out any long-term correlation with cancer.
However, local media outlets have generally adopted a more positive tone.
“Up to now, the pandemic has been all about defense, defense and defense,” Okayama Gov. Ryuta Ibaragi told KSB news as the first batches of the Pfizer vaccine reached Japanese shores in February. “The vaccine could really turn things around. It could be a game-changer.”
However, KSB also reported that the public’s initial reaction was still fairly reserved. “I’ll wait to see the effects (of the vaccine) on other people my same age before I get a jab,” one unnamed teenager told the outlet.
A woman in her 40s was far more positive about signing up for a shot.
“I plan on getting (the vaccine) or this pandemic will never be over,” the woman told the newspaper. “If things go on like this, the economy can’t survive and I can’t stop thinking about how this might affect the next generation.”
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