TOKYO -- A man who died three days after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine shot was granted a lump sum death payment by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare over one year after the man's wife applied for the Japanese government's relief system for health damage caused by vaccination.

Shotaro Suda, an office worker from the town of Taiwa, Miyagi Prefecture, died aged 36 in October 2021, three days after receiving his second coronavirus vaccine shot. The municipal government, which is in charge of procedures for lump sum death payments and other benefits, received a notice via the prefectural government on March 6. Suda's 35-year-old wife Mutsuko, who was informed about the relief authorization by the town government, commented, "There are many bereaved families who have not yet heard back after applying for relief. I'd like the health ministry to proceed with screening applications as quickly as possible."

As of Feb. 10, there have been 30 cases nationwide where people who passed away after being vaccinated received official recognition for relief. Suda's case received authorization for relief on Feb. 21. According to the bereaved family's lawyer, it is the first such case where family have disclosed they were granted authorization for relief for vaccination health damage.

According to medical records and Mutsuko, Suda received a vaccine shot at a clinic in the town on Sept. 13, 2021. After receiving his second shot on Oct. 4 that year, he complained of joint pain and shivering fits. The next day, he apparently developed a fever of over 39 degrees Celsius and complained of breathing difficulties, while the couple talked about how they suspected it was side effects of the vaccine.

He went to sleep after taking medicine that day, and on Oct. 6, his fever subsided and he became able to eat. By night, he seemed to be in good shape, and said, "I think I can go to work tomorrow. Thanks for taking care of me." This became the last conversation between the two.

At around 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 7, their 10-year-old son found Suda lying still on his bed, before Mutsuko called for an ambulance. He was brought to a nearby general hospital in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest, and was confirmed dead about an hour and a half later.

Autopsy results stated the cause of death as acute circulatory failure, but the relation between the vaccine and death was deemed unknown.

Though Suda worked overnight as the head of a liquor store, he had no past illnesses or noticeable issues in a health checkup he took in autumn of the previous year.

Mutsuko, who thought that her husband's death was caused by the vaccination, applied for the government's relief system in December 2021. In October 2022, she established a group for people who lost family members after vaccinations, and participated in lectures and other efforts, demanding the central government to review the continuation of vaccinations.

She gave birth to her fourth child about three months after her husband's death. After being granted relief, she said, "It's been over one year since I applied and I was worried, so I'm relieved at the recognition, but the amount of money is the bare minimum and is not enough for the loss of my husband's life."

The Taiwa Municipal Government has said it will mail the authorization notice to the bereaved family within a few days and go ahead with payment procedures.

According to the health ministry, by Dec. 18, 2022, there had been 1,966 reports on people who died after receiving coronavirus vaccinations. The reports were made through a system where doctors and hospitals report "cases suspected as side effects" to the central government if patients were confirmed with physical abnormalities after vaccinations. It is possible that reports include cases where people died due to causes unrelated to the vaccine.

The system's purpose is to monitor safety, and there have been no cases where deaths were deemed as being caused by vaccination. Suda's case was also categorized as "incapable of assessment," which is the classification given to over 99% of all cases.

Meanwhile, the government's relief system for vaccination health damage was established based on the Immunization Act with the purpose to cover a wide range of health issues that arise after vaccination. Medical expenses and other payments are distributed to applicants in cases where a causal relationship between vaccination and death cannot be ruled out, even if the precise nature is unknown. Bereaved families are said to be granted a lump sum death payment of 44.2 million yen (about $325,000).

As of Feb. 10, there have been 6,219 applications for cases, including deaths, reported after COVID-19 vaccinations. Of these, 1,622 cases, including 30 deaths, were recognized as eligible for relief, while 190 were dismissed, and 31 are pending, following screening by a subcommittee of the health ministry.

The health ministry has commented, "Even for normal cases, some of them take about six months to one year for screening, and there has been a huge number of applications for cases related to COVID-19 vaccines, with some taking further time. We'd like to swiftly respond to the remaining cases."

(Japanese original by Seiho Akimaru, Tokyo City News Department)

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