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Japan to prioritize those with severe mental illness, intellectual disabilities for vaccine

The building housing the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- In addition to a group of people with underlying conditions, individuals with severe mental illness or intellectual disabilities will be among those who will be given priority in receiving the coronavirus vaccination following elderly people aged 65 and older, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare decided on March 18.

    The decision was made after it was approved by the Health Sciences Council's vaccine basic policy subcommittee.

    Studies in Europe, the United States and South Korea have reported that people with mental illness or intellectual disabilities have a higher risk of dying or becoming hospitalized as a result of being infected with the coronavirus, though the cause is not clear. For this reason, in response to an inquiry from the health ministry, the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology issued a written opinion requesting that individuals with serious mental illness be placed top among those given higher priority in receiving the coronavirus vaccination.

    The Japanese government plans to first inoculate health care workers and the elderly aged 65 and older, followed by people with underlying conditions -- which includes heart disease such as high blood pressure and respiratory illnesses.

    Individuals with severe mental illness and intellectual disabilities will be given priority after it is confirmed they are either hospitalized or have been issued a mental disability certificate or a rehabilitation certificate. It is estimated that about 2.1 million people will be subject to the new decision.

    (Japanese original by Sooryeon Kim, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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