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    Japanese media: Why the seventh wave of cases in Japan remains high

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    According to Japan’s “Asahi Shimbun” report on August 19, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s new crown epidemic countermeasures expert group held a meeting on the 18th, confirming that the number of new crown deaths in Japan in the past week has been basically the same as the peak of the sixth wave of the epidemic, and the future may be will rise. Especially now that it coincides with the traditional Japanese summer festival Obon, the number of people traveling by air is more than double that of the same period last year, and family visits and travel may lead to the further spread of the epidemic.

    Decrease in overall immunity

    “Nihon Keizai Shimbun” quoted experts as saying that the background of the spread of the seventh wave of the new crown epidemic in Japan is not only the strong contagiousness of the Omicron variant BA.5, but also the gradual decline of the overall immunity level of the Japanese people.

    It is reported that compared with the United States and Europe and other places, Japan has fewer new coronavirus infections, and from the results, obtained through vaccination and infection with the virus Fewer people have mixed immunity. Moving forward with the third and fourth doses of the vaccine is significant from an infection reduction perspective.

    Professor Hiroshi Nishiura and others at Kyoto University considered a variety of factors, including not only vaccination rates, but also the time-dependent changes in immunity acquired from infection with the virus. Attenuated cases, the proportion of people with immunity to BA.5 and BA.4 was extrapolated. As of Aug. 18, it was 26% to 28% of people over 60, and 35% to 44% of people 20 to 59 years old. According to calculations, no matter which age group, 60 to 70% of people do not have the immunity to prevent the disease.

    The third-dose vaccination rate among 20- to 49-year-olds is not high, around 50 to 60 percent. Among people aged 60 to 69 and over 70 years old, the proportion of people with immunity peaked around March to April, and then continued to decline. The overall immunity level of the national population is decreasing.

    Immunization obtained from vaccination and virus infection is called “mixed immunity” in foreign countries. Human immunity is enhanced after infection with the virus, which is similar to the mechanism of action of vaccines. Immunity gained from contracting the virus is not as effective as vaccination, but generally speaking, the higher the total number of vaccinations and infections, the higher the level of immunity.

    It is not advisable to learn Western “lying flat”

    Mixed immunity is of particular concern in the U.S. and Europe, where the number of infections is much higher than in Japan, the report said. The overall immunization status of the population of each country should not only look at the superficial vaccination rate, but also the number of infected people. The background of the relaxation of epidemic prevention and control measures in the West, in addition to differences in values ​​and medical systems, is that there are significantly more people with mixed immunity than Japan.

    For example, the University of Cambridge estimates that about 87% of the population in England has been infected at least once. The results of a government survey in England in February and March showed that 50 to 60 percent of people aged 17 to 49 had antibodies that were produced only after contracting the virus.

    It is reported that the National Institute of Infectious Diseases of Japan conducted a survey in February and speculated that about 4.3% of people have been infected with the new coronavirus. After the sixth and seventh waves of the epidemic, the number of infections surged, with a total of more than 16 million cases, but in terms of the proportion of the total population, it is still far lower than many Western countries. The Japanese population has a strong feature that immunity levels are maintained through vaccination. Prevention of infection and symptoms in the short term is also improved with the third and fourth doses of the vaccine.

    It is reported that it is not the best policy for Japan to allow the epidemic to spread and thereby achieve mixed immunity. This will not only lead to a shortage of medical resources, but also pose a risk of severe illness and sequelae to patients. Masaji Miyasaka, a professor at the Center for Frontier Research in Immunology at Osaka University, said: “While promoting the third dose of the younger generation, the fourth dose of the elderly and medical staff should be promoted.”

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