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Japan to craft anti-discrimination guidelines for people who can't get COVID-19 shots

Japan's coronavirus vaccine policy chief Taro Kono (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Japan's government is set to create guidelines to prevent discrimination against people who can't be vaccinated against COVID-19 because of allergies or other reasons, vaccination policy chief Taro Kono said at an April 9 news conference.

    Looking ahead to nationwide vaccinations, Kono commented, "It's true that there are quite a few people who can't be vaccinated due to allergies. We'd like to create something like guidelines with requests, though they wouldn't be binding."

    Kono said officials would coordinate with the health ministry to formulate the guidelines. Under a revision to the Immunization Act that went into effect in December last year, residents are required to try to get vaccinated. Pregnant women, however, are exempt, to allow them to carefully weigh the benefits and risks of being vaccinated. Moreover, those with heart disease, developmental impairments, and symptoms of allergies need to be cautious, the law says.

    In Europe, the United States and Israel, the introduction of smartphone "vaccine passport" and "corona passport" apps that record a person's vaccination history and show that they have tested negative for the coronavirus is progressing. Having people present these digital passports at restaurants and shops, as well as when they go to events, has the benefit of securing safe services and facilitating the resumption of economic activity.

    In Japan, meanwhile, there have been moves to consider discounting services for people who are vaccinated.

    There are fears, however, that such moves could compel people to receive vaccinations, which are essentially supposed to be voluntary, and may lead to discrimination.

    Kono commented, "There is no problem with local bodies and private companies doing positive things for people who receive vaccinations. But we want them to avoid excluding people or putting them at a disadvantage just because they haven't been inoculated."

    A resolution accompanying the Immunization Act states that whether to be vaccinated is up to each member of the public. It calls on the government to publicize this so that people are not discriminated against or treated unfavorably at work, school, or elsewhere.

    (Japanese original by Kazuhiko Hori, Political News Department)

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