Social media posts falsely claim Japan launches probe into 'millions' of Covid-19 vaccine deaths

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on February 16, 2023 at 07:59
  • Updated on February 16, 2023 at 08:04
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Australia
Social media users have repeatedly shared a false claim that Japan has launched an official investigation into "millions" of Covid-19 vaccine-related deaths. However, Japanese government data does not show widespread deaths from the jabs. There is also no evidence Japan has launched the investigation claimed in the posts.

An image published on Instagram on January 29, 2023 reads: "Japan Launches Official Investigation Into Millions of Vaxx Deaths".

The post's caption says "Japan has launched an official investigation into the unprecedented numbers of people dying after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination" and contains the web address of an article on Reignite Democracy Australia's website, which largely repeats the claim.

The group has advocated against Covid-19 restrictions and mandatory vaccinations.

A screengrab of the false post.

The claim was also shared in Facebook posts here and here with screengrabs of an article from News Punch that also largely repeats the claim. The website has published false claims previously debunked by AFP.

However, the claim is false. A search of the Japanese health ministry's latest press releases did not reveal any announcement about an official investigation into the "millions" of Covid-19 vaccine-related deaths as claimed in the misleading posts.

As of February 15, 2023, there were 71,136 deaths from Covid-19 in Japan.

False claim of widespread deaths

Japan's health ministry has a subcommittee that discusses Covid-19 vaccination, including suspected adverse effects.

A health ministry official told AFP on January 30, 2023 that "the ministry holds discussions regularly on side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine" and said she was not aware of information or news reports about many deaths allegedly caused by Covid-19.

The ministry cautions on its website that those who "died after vaccination do not mean (they) died of the vaccine". At the same time, the Japanese government provides a one-off payment in the case of any deaths and medical fees for illnesses after Covid-19 vaccination where a "causal link" cannot be denied.

As of January 12, 2023, the government recognised this was the case for the death of 20 people between the ages of 20 and 90 and they were eligible for the payment, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Experts at Meedan Health Desk, a US-based organisation that tackles health misinformation, told AFP there was no evidence to suggest that there have been widespread deaths due to the vaccine in Japan.

"The WHO-approved Covid-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety and efficacy in humans in controlled trials and now in the global vaccinated population (in a non-controlled setting). These large studies have not found any evidence that Covid-19 vaccines cause excess deaths," they said via email on February 10, 2023.

No evidence of official investigation

A Google reverse image search shows the picture in the misleading post was taken from a longer video, which can be seen on the Japanese video-sharing site Niconico uploaded on November 25, 2022.

A further search leads to a webpage, which describes the video as a cross-party study session on the "causal relationship between vaccination and post-vaccination mortality and health hazards".

However, there is no indication that the session was part of an official government investigation and lawmakers regularly hold cross-party study sessions to discuss various topics.

The experts at Meedan also told AFP that there was "no evidence or documentation that Japan has an investigation into Covid-19 vaccine-related deaths," adding that the government of Japan recommends Covid-19 vaccines to all citizens who are eligible, claiming that the vaccine's benefits outweigh any risks.

AFP has previously debunked claims that Japan has stopped using Covid-19 vaccines, or that it had declared a state of emergency over vaccine side effects.

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