Tokyo – Japan is remarkablePandemic resilience has given rise to many possible explanations, from the country’s preference for going barefoot indoors, to the supposedly low-aerosol character of Japan’s quiet conversation, to the beneficial gut bacteria in its citizens. Even secularism – which is said to have saved the Japanese from exposure to crowded places of worship – has been touted as a virtue in the COVID-19 era. Although it has the oldest population in the world, with almost one in three residents aged 65 and over, Japan had fewer COVID-per-deaths than almost any other developed nation. As of Thursday, Japan had recorded only 246 deaths from COVID-19 per million people, surpassing even New Zealand (263), which initially adopted a zero-COVID-19 maximum suppression strategy. By comparison, the United States has a cumulative death toll of 3,045 per million people. But COVID mortality statistics alone, often based on inconsistent and / or incomplete records, do not tell the whole story. Researchers estimate that Japan had 111,000 “excessive deaths”, more than five times the number of reported deaths from COVID, when mortality from disturbed medical care and social dislocation is taken into account.
Japan’s mortality rate, at 44 per 100,000, far exceeds that of South Korea (4), Singapore (-15), Australia (-37), and New Zealand (-9). China (0.6) and Taiwan (-5). Even the least prosperous Vietnam and Thailand did better. But compared to the US (179) and Europe (140), Japan is still ahead. Some experts believe that congratulations on this relative success belong first and foremost to the Japanese people, to themselves.. “Japan’s approach to COVID was based primarily on human effort, not command,” Kenji Shibuya, director of research at the Tokyo Institute for Political Research, told CBS News. “This kind of voluntary effort, instead of top-down, draconian measures, has succeeded.” Peer pressure to wear face masks remains so strong in Japan – even as the heat wave approaches – that the national health ministry has been forced to issue a leaflet urging people not to wear masks when walking their dogs. bike. running or just walking to work.
Aside from the ubiquitous use of the mask, Japan’s vaccination program, which was initially delayed but quickly implemented, is believed to have saved lives. Despite initial fears of vaccination reluctance, two-thirds of all citizens and about 90% of the elderly have now received booster vaccines. Japan’s generally healthy population has also helped it withstand the pandemic. Life expectancy continued to extend for four decades, giving the Japanese the highest average life expectancy on earth at 87 years for women and 81 for men. While the US obesity rate jumped to almost 42% in 2020, Japan enjoys one of the lowest obesity rates in the world, at around 4%.
Thanks in part to the universal health insurance system, cancer and heart disease rates are also low. Like obesity, these diseases are major underlying risk factors for complications with coronavirus infection.
Scientists are exploring a theory, meanwhile, that the Japanese may have an inherent advantage at the cellular level when it comes to fighting COVID.
Researchers at the state-funded RIKEN Center for Integrated Medical Sciences have sharpened human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), proteins found in most cells throughout our bodies, as a potential antiviral defense. HLA markers are well known in the field of organ transplantation, where matching HLA types, not just blood types, is vital to reducing the likelihood of organ rejection.
Riken’s study found that the Japanese use HLA A24, which is common here and elsewhere in Asia, to develop “cross-reactive” T cells in response to seasonal coronaviruses or common colds, which can regrow for to eradicate COVID-19 infections much faster and more effectively than in those who do not have this specific marker. The study’s lead author, Shin-ichiro Fujii, told CBS News that he had applied for clinical trials of a vaccine targeting immunocompromised cancer patients that would mimic the benefit of having HLA type A24 proteins in individuals. who are unable to develop neutralizing antibodies. of existing vaccines. “The real hope,” he said in a statement, “is that we will be able to develop vaccines that can stimulate a highly targeted T cell response to infection. We have shown that this could be possible in this particular HLA group.” but now we have to look at other types. “
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