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Osaka ward gov't shares list of workers refusing COVID-19 vaccinations with managers

A list of Higashinari Ward Office employees who do not wish to be vaccinated against the coronavirus using surplus doses from mass vaccination sites in the city of Osaka is seen in this partially modified photo. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- A ward office in this western Japan city has made a list of employees who did not want coronavirus vaccinations and emailed it to managers in each department, the Mainichi Shimbun learned on June 16.

    As vaccinations are voluntary in principle, the finding has prompted experts to point out that the emails sent around the Higashinari Ward Office in the city of Osaka could generate workplace discrimination against those refusing to be inoculated.

    According to sources including the city's health bureau and the ward's general affairs department, in May Osaka requested each ward government to craft a list of employees willing to take surplus doses from mass vaccination venues in each ward to avoid wasting them. The extra doses are due to residents cancelling their reservations, among other reasons.

    The Higashinari Ward Office confirmed the intentions of some 150 employees -- or a large majority of the staff -- prior to the start of mass vaccinations in the ward on May 24. The ward's general affairs department then drew up a list of 102 staffers willing to get vaccinated, including their names, departments, positions and the order of inoculation priority.

    At the same time, the ward office also prepared a list of 29 workers who preferred not to get vaccinated, specifying their names and departments. The list was emailed to the manager and deputy manager of each department on June 2, alongside the list of applicants for inoculation.

    Among them, the citizen collaboration department had the list of those wishing to decline vaccination forwarded to a little over 20 staffers. The email specified the 29 employees as "refusers."

    When queried about the issue by the Mainichi Shimbun, the ward's general affairs department explained, "It was intended to avoid confusion by enabling each workplace to understand who wanted and who didn't want to be inoculated. We never thought it would offend workers. We lacked consideration."

    Overseas researchers have reported that the various coronavirus vaccines have been shown to be at least 95% effective at preventing infection, the onset of symptoms and the development of severe symptoms. It has been reported that between two to five people per 1 million have had an anaphylactic response to COVID-19 shots.

    According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 169 people have had an anaphylactic reaction among around 13.05 million Pfizer vaccine doses administered in Japan. No such allergic response has been reported among some 90,000 shots of the Moderna vaccine. It is believed that some people are skipping the jabs after weighing their efficacy and side effects.

    Kenta Yamada, professor of media law at Senshu University who is versed in personal information and privacy issues, criticized the Higashinari Ward Office's action, saying, "It's very problematic in terms of personal information management in an environment where people are vulnerable to peer pressure to get vaccinated. Similar problems are likely to emerge at companies, universities and other organizations when they start workplace inoculations. It is necessary to give more careful consideration to information handling."

    (Japanese original by Hirokage Tabata, Osaka Science & Environment News Department, and Mirai Nagira, Osaka City News Department)

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