26 September 2023

False: Japan’s Abe did not oversee vaccine rollout or distribute ivermectin

A widely shared conspiracy theory suggested Japan’s former prime minister was assassinated because he disobeyed the World Economic Forum. Annie Lab looked into three specific claims and found all of them unsubstantiated.

"FALSE" stamped on screenshots of Twitter and Instagram posts


A tweet posted on July 11 made a series of claims about the work of Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan who was assassinated on July 8.

The post flaunted a conspiracy theory suggesting that he was killed because he “did not follow the orders” from the World Economic Forum.

Specifically, it claimed Abe did not mandate vaccination, sent back 1.6 million doses of vaccines and gave ivermectin to citizens.

The tweet, as of this writing, has more than 50,000 likes and 17,900 retweets.

The same claims, presented as an image with Abe’s face and text, were shared in another tweet in Chinese and also on Instagram.

All three claims are false.

Abe stepped down as Japan’s prime minister in September 2020, before any type of COVID-19 vaccine rolled out around the world in the first place.

Also, about two weeks before he resigned, Abe vowed to “seek enough supply of vaccines for every citizen” once they became available in a press conference.

High vaccination rate without a mandate

Initially, Japan faced strong vaccine hesitancy and had one of the worst vaccination rates among the developed nations even when the country was hosting the summer Olympics in mid-2021.

But the situation turned around dramatically toward the end of the year and the country recorded the highest rate of fully vaccinated population in the world in November 2021, according to a BBC report. This was achieved without a vaccine mandate.

CBS News reported last month that two-thirds of all citizens and 90% of seniors in the country have taken booster shots.

Moderna recalled due to contamination; Pfzier was readily available

In Sept. 2021, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare recalled a total of 1.63 million doses of Moderna vaccines after contamination issues were reported.

The move came after then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, not Abe, asked health authorities to look into the safety concerns.

Meanwhile, Pfizer vaccines were readily available in Japan during this period in 2021.

Ivermectin still under trial

In May 2020 when Abe was still the prime minister, he said in a press conference that the health authorities were looking into various antiviral medicines including ivermectin.

He said the government would start the approval process if such drugs were proven to be effective against COVID-19 in clinical research and trials.

However, as of July 14, 2022, ivermectin has not been approved for general application.

In January, the media reported a pharmaceutical company in Japan, Kowa, announced ivermectin was found to be effective against Omicron and other variants, but it was widely misunderstood that the test involved humans.

The study actually found that the drug showed “antiviral properties” in non-clinical laboratory research. In medical research, clinical trials mean tests on humans. Non-clinical trials do not involve people.

The local and international media later issued corrections.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Kowa began the Phase III clinical trial for ivermectin in Japan last year in October, with 1,000 volunteers enrolled, which is estimated to be completed by the end of this year.

If proven effective in the Phase III trial, the company can seek approval from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

What is World Economic Forum?

The World Economic Forum is a non-government, lobbying organization founded in 1971. The forum gathers business leaders, political leaders and economists to discuss world economic issues annually.

They also publish opinion articles and analyses by their members regularly. Adaptive strategy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is one of their most prominent topics in recent years.

But regardless of what recommendations and guidelines are discussed and made, the WEF has no power to mandate or impose them in any way.

Abe is recognized as one of the members and has occasionally written articles in WEF publications since 2014.

[Updated on July 22, 2022] There are many articles about COVID-19 vaccination published on the WEF website before Abe stepped down. This one in May 2020, for example, encouraged related parties to make vaccines “reach all corners of the world” once they become available and ready to be distributed, which could be one of the sources of the false claim that the vaccine mandate was “an order.”

Other fact-checking organizations such as Politifact and Reuters have also debunked these claims.

Correction: The previous version indicated that there was only one article on the WEF website discussing vaccine distribution before Abe resigned, but Annie Lab found many more related articles afterward. The relevant sentence has been updated.