People hand in documents before receiving a dose of the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at Aoyama University in Tokyo on August 2, 2021. ( POOL / AFP / Stanislav Kogiku)

Japan has not stopped using vaccines to combat Covid-19

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Multiple Facebook posts have shared a claim that Japan has stopped using vaccines against Covid-19 and prescribed antiparasitic drug ivermectin, ending the pandemic in the country “almost overnight”. The claim is false; Japan is still administering Covid-19 vaccines. Japanese authorities have not approved ivermectin to treat Covid-19.

The claims were shared by an Australia-based Facebook user here on November 1, 2021.

The Facebook post includes a screenshot of an article from the website of the Hal Turner Radio Show, an American conspiracy-oriented program AFP has fact-checked before, which claims: "Japan drops vax rollout, goes to Ivermectin, ENDS COVID almost overnight."

The article, found on the radio show's website here, argues that Japan is an "absolute superstar among foreign nations dealing with COVID", citing a purported switch to ivermectin and mothballing of vaccines.

"Japan has PULLED the vaccines and substituted Ivermectin - and in one month, wiped COVID out in that country!" the article reads.

The claims are circulating online as daily Covid-19 cases in Japan have dropped drastically after a wave of infections that peaked in August 2021 and reports of health problems caused by people ingesting ivermectin in the US in the mistaken belief that it will protect them against Covid-19 or treat the deadly disease.

Similar claims were also shared by other Australian users here and here.

However, the claims are false.

Covid vaccines still administered in Japan

Three Covid-19 vaccines — made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — are still being administered in Japan, with the vaccination statistics reported on the website of the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office here.

Official data shows that as of November 14, Japan has adminsitered more than 194 million Covid-19 vaccine doses.

As of November 9, 2021, around 78.5 percent of the Japanese population have received at least one dose of a vaccine against Covid-19, according to this dataset from Oxford’s Our World in Data project.

The Japanese Health Ministry approved to give third booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine to those aged 18 and older on November 10, 2021, starting with medical personnel in December.

Japan recorded less than 200 new Covid-19 cases on November 10, 2021, as well as the previous day.

The country's daily cases had plummeted, from its height in August 2021, reaching over 20,000 cases in a day.

Experts speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the New York Times pointed towards vaccines, widespread mask usage and social distancing for Japan's success in quashing the outbreak.

Ivermectin not an approved treatment

Ivermectin is not listed by the Japanese Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA), which oversees the regulation of drugs in the country, as a treatment for Covid-19, according to their website.

"Clinical trial of Ivermectin is reportedly on-going. However Ivermectin is not approved for use to treat disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19)," a PMDA spokesperson told AFP in an email on November 9, 2021.

Japanese Health Minister Norihisa Tamura told a committee of the country’s lower house of parliament in August 2021 that more evidence needed to show the drug was effective in order for it to be prescribed for Covid-19.

Similar claims alleging that Ivermectin had been approved in Japan began circulating after Tokyo Medical Association chairman Haruo Ozaki came out in support of the drug in the fight against the coronavirus, as reported by Japanese media here and here.

However, as explained in this AFP Fact Check report, the Tokyo Medical Association is an independent medical body and is part of the Japanese Medical Association, which only has the power to lobby the Japanese government.

The Australian Department of Health explains on their website here that there is "insufficient evidence to support the safe and effective use of ivermectin" against Covid-19.

"More robust, well-designed clinical trials are needed before they could be considered an appropriate treatment option," the Department of Health says.

In September 2021, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Australia’s medical products regulator, moved to limit the prescription of the drug, citing fears oral Ivermectin was being prescribed as a prevention or treatment for Covid-19 at dangerously high dosages.

"These higher doses can be associated with serious adverse effects, including severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness, neurological effects such as dizziness, seizures and coma," the TGA notice states.

January 1, 2022 This article was amended to fix a typo in the first paragraph.
November 19, 2021 This article was amended to correct Japan's Covid-19 vaccination statistics. A previous version of this article said 193 million people in Japan had been vaccinated; in fact, 193 million is the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses distributed.