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Over 70% of homeless people in Tokyo unvaccinated for COVID: survey

A volunteer member of the nonprofit organization Tenohasi talks with and gives a rice ball to a homeless person in Tokyo's Toshima Ward on Sept. 15, 2021. (Mainichi/Yohei Koide)

TOKYO -- More than 70% of homeless people in Japan's capital who responded to a survey had not been vaccinated for COVID-19, a support group revealed on Feb. 24.

    The group, informally called Nojiren, works for needy people primarily in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. It conducted the survey on people who came to a soup kitchen the group runs at a park in the ward between Jan. 22 and Feb. 5, and 83 people responded. Among them, 55 people were living on the streets, 42 of whom -- over 70% -- had not had a coronavirus vaccine shot.

    Among the most common reasons for not getting the jab were, "I'm afraid of adverse reactions," and, "I don't have an opportunity to be vaccinated." Homeless people can get vaccine shots in Shibuya Ward, but the right information may not have reached them.

    Among the 83 people polled, 48 had received the Japanese government's 100,000-yen (about $870) per person coronavirus crisis relief handout in 2020. Sixty-three people were not receiving public assistance, and the largest subgroup among them said they did not want to use the welfare system while they can work. Thirty-five people had incomes earned at jobs including as day laborers.

    Masato Kimura, a sociology professor at Toyo University who supervised the survey, commented, "Assistance is not reaching those in need. A wide variety of support systems are based on resident registration. Governments should take measures to make sure those who've lost their homes are in the system from the beginning. They must also publicize support systems on occasions such as soup kitchens, in cooperation with private support groups."

    (Japanese original by Shinji Kurokawa, Tokyo City News Department)

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