Kimono-clad women wearing face masks (file image)
Kimono-clad women wearing face masks pose for a selfie while visiting a Shinto Shrine in Tokyo. Image by AP PHOTO

Japan’s COVID vaccine deaths probe is pure fantasy

Kate Atkinson February 20, 2023
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Japan has launched an official investigation into millions of deaths caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.

OUR VERDICT

False. No investigation has been launched and there have been zero confirmed COVID-19 vaccine deaths in the country.

A Facebook post has made the alarming claim that Japan is investigating millions of deaths caused by COVID-19 vaccines.

However, the claim is false, based on a concocted news article from a misinformation website.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) told AAP FactCheck there was no such investigation and the nation had not reported any deaths with a causal relationship to COVID vaccination.

The claim was made in a post (archived here) from an Australian-based Facebook page on January 30, 2023.

“I don’t know if you heard, BUT ‘Japan Launches Official Investigation Into Millions of COVID Vaccine Deaths’,” it reads.

A screenshot of the Facebook post.
 The post is one of many peddling fake news Japan is investigating millions of vaccine deaths. 

The post has a link to an article from Reignite Democracy Australia (RDA), an individual rights group which AAP FactCheck has previously investigated, see here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

The claim about vaccine deaths in Japan has been shared widely on social media, as seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Many posts feature screenshots from an article published by NewsPunch, a website known for spreading misinformation. AAP FactCheck has debunked NewsPunch claims here, here and here.

Yousuke Tsukada, a secretariat in the MHLW’s Health Service Bureau, told AAP FactCheck in an email that apart from the standard review and evaluation of reports in Japan’s adverse drug event reporting system, it had not launched an investigation into deaths caused by COVID-19 vaccines.

While the social media posts suggest “millions” of people have died as a result of the vaccine, the MHLW told AAP FactCheck there were no deaths where COVID-19 vaccination was confirmed as the cause.

Hiroki Kinoshita, from MHLW’s Pharmaceutical Safety Division, said in an email: “Currently, no causal relationship between COVID-19 vaccination and death has been confirmed under the Suspected Adverse Reactions Reporting System.”

The RDA article elaborated on the claim made in the Facebook post.

“Japan has launched an official investigation into the unprecedented numbers of people dying after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination,” it read.

“According to reports, Japanese researchers have been instructed to investgate (sic) the mechanisms by which experimental mRNA jabs could be causing deaths and severe adverse reactions.”

The article cites research by Hiroshima University Professor Masataka Nagao which looked at cytokine storm in four people who died “with no obvious cause identified at autopsy” following a COVID-19 vaccination.

RDA claims the study concluded the vaccine caused immune system abnormalities that caused inflammation throughout the body.

However, the researchers stated “our results do not indicate what mainly caused this aberrant cytokine response”.

Prof Nagao told AAP FactCheck in an email there was a suspected causal relationship to the COVID-19 vaccine, but “it is not possible to say for sure because the research is still in progress”.

He also backed vaccination for preventing the severity of COVID-19 infection.

Vials of COVID-19 vaccinations (file image)
 Japanese health authorities have not recorded any deaths caused by COVID-19 vaccines. 

The RDA article also mentions Kyoto University Professor Emeritus Masanori Fukushima, who is featured in this video calling for an investigation into adverse events.

A Kyoto University spokesman distanced the institution from Dr Fukushima’s comments, telling AAP FactCheck in an email: “The institution doesn’t take responsibility for faculty members and their comments post-retirement.”

The spokesman also said he was not aware of any official investigation into vaccine deaths.

Hiroki Kinoshita from the MHLW also said he was not aware of the academics mentioned by RDA being instructed to investigate COVID-19 deaths on behalf of the government.

A similar claim has been debunked by AFP Fact Check.

Verdict

The claim that Japan has launched an official investigation into millions of deaths linked to COVID-19 vaccines is false. 

Officials from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare told AAP FactCheck there was no investigation, apart from regular review and evaluation of reports in the nation’s adverse drug event reporting system.

Health officials said no deaths had been causally linked to to COVID-19 vaccines.

False ÔÇô The claim is inaccurate.

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