A radio show website in the US has falsely claimed that Japan has ended its Covid-19 vaccination programme and begun treating patients with ivermectin, which it claims proves that ivermectin can “wipe out the disease”.
This is not true. Japan’s vaccination programme is ongoing, and ivermectin is not an approved treatment for Covid-19 in Japan.
This claim appears in an article for the website of the American radio programme The Hal Turner Radio Show, and has since been shared on social media. Mr Turner has been criticised for sharing conspiracy theories on his show.
The article says: “Japan has PULLED the vaccines and substituted Ivermectin - and in one month, wiped COVID out in that country!”
But Japan has not ended its vaccine programme. Data from Reuters shows that, as of 16 November, Japan had administered just over 360,000 vaccine doses a day for the past week.
So far, the country has administered enough doses to have double vaccinated around 77% of its population.
On 15 November, the Japanese government announced plans to begin its rollout of third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in December.
The Hal Turner article includes links to a report that some vaccine doses were recalled in Japan (although no safety issues were reported). But this doesn’t mean that the vaccination programme itself was stopped.
What about ivermectin?
As we have written before, ivermectin is a well known anti-parasite medication, which was first discovered in Japan. Throughout the pandemic, there has been speculation that it could be used to treat or prevent Covid-19.
At the time of writing, the question is still a subject of research. The World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency have said that ivermectin should not be used to prevent or treat Covid-19 except in the context of a clinical trial.
Ivermectin does not appear on a list of approved treatments for Covid-19 from Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA).
A spokesperson for PMDA told the fact checking organisation AFP: “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).”
The chair of the Tokyo Medical Association, Haruo Ozaki, has spoken in favour of using ivermectin to treat Covid-19. However, the association cannot introduce new treatments and only has the power to lobby the Japanese government for changes.
Is Japan’s pandemic over?
Covid-19 case rates have certainly fallen substantially in Japan since the summer. Japan is currently reporting an average of 168 cases each day, just 1% of its August peak.
However, this does not necessarily mean that the disease has been “wiped out”.
Dr Kazuhiro Tatedo, a Toho University professor of virology, told AP News that vaccinations may have played a large role in the falling infections, saying: “Rapid and intensive vaccinations in Japan among those younger than 64 might have created a temporary condition similar to herd-immunity.”
But at this stage, we simply do not know whether Japan will experience future waves of infection.
These claims made by The Hal Turner Radio Show have been found to be false by many other fact checking organisations.