As the vaccine rollout shifts into high gear, its effect is starting to show in the numbers in Tokyo, with the coronavirus infection rate plummeting for frontline workers and the elderly – the demographics inoculated first.
Among the 560,000 doctors, nurses and medical staff in the capital, the number of people infected in hospitals was 46 in May, up from 526 in January, a Tokyo metropolitan government official said. New cases of COVID-19 among medical staff accounted for 0.2% of the total in May, up from 1.3% in January.
The declining share of infections among medical workers clearly reflects the progress of vaccinations, said Dr Tetsuo Nakayama, project professor at the Kitasato Institute of Life Sciences and director of the Japan Society for Clinical Virology.
New infections among frontline healthcare workers are expected to decline further, as the latest figures show the proportion of medical workers in Tokyo who have completed a two-dose vaccination schedule has dropped to around 75% this week, from around 55. . % at the end of May.
About 4.7 million healthcare workers nationwide have been given top priority for vaccinations since Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine launch began on February 17.
“Thanks to a rising vaccination rate among health workers, cluster infections in hospitals also appear to have declined,” Nakayama said.
The vaccinations exceeded Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s goal of one million doses per day for four days this month, government data showed on Thursday, and the benefits were also reflected in slowing infections among children. the elderly, for whom vaccinations began in mid-April, in accordance with their status as the second priority group.
Just under 52% of the 3.11 million people aged 65 and over in Tokyo received their first injection on Wednesday, while 18% received their second dose, according to government data. As the number of older people who received the injections increased, the share of new infections in people aged 65 and over declined to 6.3% of the total number of cases during the week to Monday, a sharp drop from the 21.9% seen during the week to March 29.
Concerns about the new variants, which would be more contagious and cause more severe cases, are real, with the alpha variant first discovered in the UK accounting for around 80% of all cases nationwide, the UK said. last week the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. He added that the super-contagious delta variant, first identified in India, was also gaining momentum in Japan.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Tuesday identified a record 21 daily cases of the delta variant, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of the variant, which is rapidly spreading overseas, to 111.
The government aims to end the two-dose regimen for all seniors wishing to be vaccinated by the end of July, which is expected to further reduce infections among them. While vaccines are credited with slowing new infections among older people and healthcare workers, experts worry about a possible rebound in new cases among younger generations.
Recently, the majority of people visiting hospitals due to possible coronavirus infections are people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, as it is becoming rare to see people in their 60s and older, said Nakayama.
The rate of new infections for Tokyo residents in their 20s, 30s and 40s during the week to Monday was 67.5%, compared to 52.4% in the week to March 29 , according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
As the rate of infection among young people increases, vaccinations for these demographics will be key for the future.
But with false rumors circulating on social media about vaccines, there is still concern that young people are more reluctant to get vaccinated.
One of the rumors is that the genetic material used in vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna Inc., called messenger RNA, alters DNA. But the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell, where the DNA is stored, and it breaks down after the mRNA gives the instructions to make a spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus, which the system immune recognizes and then makes antibodies against it.
“The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks for people 20 years of age and older, because approved vaccines are very effective,” Nakayama said.
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