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Japan has not substituted ivermectin for COVID-19 vaccines

October 29, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: “Japan has pulled the vaccines and substituted ivermectin — and in one month, wiped COVID out in that country.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Japan has not stopped the use of coronavirus vaccines, nor has it substituted them with the parasite drug ivermectin, according to a list of COVID-19 approved medical products from Japan’s Ministry of Health. Additionally, the pandemic has not ended in the country, though new COVID-19 cases have plummeted from a summer peak. More than 1,900 new cases were still documented over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

THE FACTS: An article published this week by a conservative radio host recirculated a months old false claim that Japan has halted the use of coronavirus vaccines in favor of using the parasite drug ivermectin, and that the switch has led to the eradication of coronavirus cases.

The allegations echo similar ones that were spread in videos posted to social media last month, in which users claimed a Japanese medical official recommended doctors discontinue using the Moderna vaccine and begin prescribing ivermectin to all COVID patients.

The claims are not true. Japan has continued to administer vaccines and has not authorized ivermectin for treating COVID-19. The drug is used to treat infections of roundworms and other parasites in humans and animals. Many health officials have warned against ivermectin’s use for COVID-19, saying that it could cause harmful side effects and that there’s little evidence it helps.

The drug is not listed by the Japanese government as an approved medicine to treat the coronavirus, according to the Japan Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency’s list of medical products approved for COVID-19. The same list shows that the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines all remain authorized under Special Approval for Emergency use in the country.

The false assertion that ivermectin gained approval for use among COVID patients in Japan emerged in August after Haruo Ozaki, the chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, said at a news conference that the drug may have benefits for COVID patients but needs to be studied further.

Some people online misinterpreted this as an endorsement of the drug and mischaracterized Ozaki as a government official. But the Tokyo Medical Association is an independent organization underneath the Japan Medical Association. It is not a government agency and does not reflect the official stance of the Japanese government or its Ministry of Health.

While Japan did suspend the use of about 1.63 million doses of the Moderna vaccine in August after contamination was found in unused vials, it did not totally stop administering the vaccine. The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were unaffected.

Japan has recorded more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases and more than 650 deaths in the past month, though daily new cases have seen a steep decline from mid-August peaks when they surged around the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Experts say an effective vaccine campaign, widespread use of face masks and subdued nightlife could be credited with the decline. About 70% of the population is fully vaccinated.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.