Watch an interview with Shunichi Tanaka, the director of the radiation dose management center of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, about why it was important to study the lives of a group of kids in a real-life experiment in remote northern Japan.
“What we really discovered was how the kids were really exposed by different means,” Dr. Tanaka says. “This disease is really spreading within the community and within the schools, so we have to look more at how are the kids actually exposed to it, not just how they are at school, but how are they really being exposed to radiation.”
Once they started tracking their children, Dr. Tanaka, along with his team of scientists, suddenly found some surprising truths. For example, their data showed that in some ways, the risk of contracting Fukushima radiation is actually higher if you live in a part of the county where a lot of people were evacuated or you go to school in a community where these things are happening. The children who were from areas near the containment vessel of the Daiichi nuclear power plant have the highest risk of getting thyroid cancer. And what they found is that in these cases, the children are exposed to an average of 100 microsieverts per day, but that the risk of getting thyroid cancer is more than 30 times higher in their cases than in other kids.
In their study, the team decided to try a vaccine from the likes of a company called nAbecon. This allows them to manufacture a vaccine that would immunize kids against the effects of radiation exposure. But since they still need to study what happened with a new vaccine, Dr. Tanaka says they don’t think they can begin mass production of this vaccine for another year or so. But he says if they can improve this vaccine more, he thinks it could end up saving more lives in the long run.
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Watch his entire interview.