The Asian nation put warning labels on the vaccines highlighting the additives they contain. This was to provide its citizens enough information so they can decide for themselves whether or not to be injected with experimental drugs.
Three COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in Japan: Pfizer's Comirnaty, Moderna and Vaxzevria (formerly AstraZeneca).
The product descriptions on the Pfizer and Moderna doses state: "This product contains an additive that has never been used in a vaccine before." The same reference is also made to the new type of additive in the Vaxzevria injection. The labels also state that pharmaceutical companies are urging individuals to consult with their doctors about the additives if they plan to be injected with COVID-19 vaccine.
This level of transparency in Japan came as a result of a meeting held by the Ministry of Health with a panel of experts on Saturday, December 11. The panel concluded that a warning about the risks involved in getting the vaccines should be printed to inform the public of known serious side effects. Doing so also reinforces the country's commitment to ensuring that all possible side effects are reported in its adverse event system.
Japan is now enforcing strict legal reporting requirements, and hospitals are to report in detail any incidents that involve individuals who have developed symptoms of side effects up to 28 days after being vaccinated, as per the new law.
The Health Ministry has particularly listed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle and of the outer lining of the heart, as a possible serious side effect of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. (Related: Japan's medical freedom: No vaccine mandates and healthier children.)
Myocarditis has been found to be more prevalent in younger males. The Health Ministry reported that as of November 14, the Moderna vaccine causes myocarditis in 81.79 males per million for the 10 to 19 age bracket. This is lowered to 48.76 for those in their 20s. The figures were lower for Pfizer vaccines, at 15.66 and 13.32 per million in the 10-19 and 20-29 age brackets, respectively.
In its website, Japan's Health Ministry encourages citizens to get their vaccines but stresses that it is not mandatory: "Although we encourage all citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, it is not compulsory or mandatory. Vaccination will be given only with the consent of the person to be vaccinated after the information provided," the website states.
For consent to be valid, it must be informed and voluntary, and the persons consenting must have the capacity to make the decision themselves.
Additionally, the government recommends that everyone considers both the vaccine's effectiveness and side effects. "Please get vaccinated of your own decision, understanding both the effectiveness in preventing infectious diseases and the risk of side effects. No vaccination will be given without consent," it said.
Japan also announced that both public and private sectors cannot discriminate against those who refuse the experimental mRNA injections. Businesses cannot mandate vaccination to their employees. Employees who are vaccinated shall not discriminate against those who refuse the injections either.
The government also instructed people to file their complaints to "Human Rights Advice" in the possible event of discrimination at work due to their vaccination status.
Doctors elsewhere around the world shared the same sentiments with Japan's health authority. However, this kind of informed consent has cost many of them their licenses to practice medicine, with the government accusing them of spreading "vaccine hesitancy."
The way Japanese authorities are treating their citizens with the respect they deserve by informing them of the risks is unheard of in many western countries, where governments subject their citizens to receive vaccinations they do not need and threaten them with their freedoms if they don't comply.
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