There are claims circulating on social media that Japan has abandoned its vaccine rollout and focused on treating COVID-19 with ivermectin, resulting in infections disappearing “almost overnight.” This is totally untrue. Japan has not halted the use of COVID-19 vaccines, nor has the country stated that ivermectin is an authorized treatment for COVID-19.
The false claim was first pushed by Hal Turner Radio Show, a show which PolitiFact says promotes “conspiracy theories and hate speech.” A headline on the show’s website reads: “Japan drops vax rollout, goes to Ivermectin, ENDS COVID almost overnight.”
“The ongoing COVID-19 nonsense here in the United States exists solely and exclusively because our governments have failed to use the correct treatment,” the blurb adds. “They used so-called 'vaccines' when Japan has just proven, in less than ONE MONTH, that Ivermectin can wipe out the disease.”
The first part of the misinformation — “Japan drops vax rollout” — appears to be a misleading take on the news that Japan suspended the use of about 1.63 million doses of the Moderna vaccine in August as a precaution. The wider vaccine rollout, however, has continued with considerable success. According to the Reuters COVID-19 tracker, Japan has administered over 196 million doses of COVID vaccines so far, enough to have vaccinated 77 percent of the country’s population, as of November 23.
The second part about ivermectin is a misinterpretation of a statement made back in August 2021 by Dr Haruo Ozaki, the chairman of the Tokyo Metropolitan Medical Association, who recommended the use of ivermectin. However, it looks like higher authorities did not take this advice since ivermectin is still not listed by the Japanese government as an approved medication to treat COVID-19.
The jury is still out on whether ivermectin is an effective drug to treat COVID-19. Ivermectin is a low-cost and widely available medication used to treat parasite infestations, commonly used to treat head lice in humans, as well as intestinal worms in horses and cattle. Earlier this year, the drug became hyped as an alternative treatment for COVID-19 after a few small studies, based on petri dish experiments and animal studies, suggesting it held some potential as a COVID-19 treatment.
Despite this initial glimmer of promise, further research has failed to show the drug has any real benefits for people with COVID-19. One of the more influential meta-analyses into the effects of ivermectin on SARS-CoV-2 was retracted due to fraudulent data that changed the results and “ethical concerns.” Right-wingers and anti-vaxxers continue to advocate the drug, despite the warnings from health authorities. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strongly cautioned against ivermectin’s use for COVID-19 in a now-infamous tweet saying: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it.”