12/17/2021 / By Mary Villareal
Japan’s Ministry of Health is taking a different, more sensible approach to the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines by labeling them with a warning about their adverse effects like myocarditis. They also reaffirmed their commitment to adverse event reporting to document possible side effects of getting the jab.
The ministry stated: “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.”
Although it encourages vaccination, the ministry emphasized the necessity of getting vaccinated by will, with the understanding of both the effectiveness in preventing infectious diseases and the risk of side effects. They also noted that no vaccination will be given without consent.
The ministry also stated that nobody should be forced in the workplace to be vaccinated and that it will stand against the discrimination of those who haven’t received the vaccine. The ministry added a link to a “Human Rights Advice” page that has instructions for handling complaints if individuals face vaccine discrimination at work.
This balanced and ethical approach has been lauded by many, noting that other nations should follow Japan’s lead. The policy in itself appropriately places the responsibility of healthcare decisions with the individual or family, in contrast to the vaccine mandate approach adopted in many other countries, especially in Western nations. (Related: Japan puts warning labels on COVID vaccines in a move radically different from the rest of the world.)
The United States, for instance, has turned into a case of medical coercion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes vaccine recommendations in the U.S., but the ethically important distinction between a recommendation and a mandate immediately collapsed when institutions and the government required the people to be vaccinated based on the CDC recommendation. The CDC then denies responsibility, saying that it doesn’t make the policies, just the recommendations.
Meanwhile, vaccine manufacturers are immune and indemnified from all harm under federal law. There is no use going against them if their product harms individuals who are not free to decide whether or not not take the vaccine in the first place.
Japan’s policies avoid most of these problems simply by placing responsibility for the decision on the individuals receiving the vaccines, or the parent, in case of a child who is not old enough to give consent.
While the Asian nation historically had an issue with vaccine hesitancy, it now has the highest inoculation rate among the G-7 group of major advanced economies, despite rolling out vaccines months after the U.S. – and it did so without imposing draconian mandates on its citizens.
As of November 14, Japan already fully inoculated 75.5 percent of its 126 million people and has pushed ahead of Canada, which previously had the highest vaccination rate among the G-7 group with 75.3 percent of its population fully vaccinated.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno thanked the local governments, medical professionals and other people concerned for their efforts in making up for the lost time. Japan has done relatively little nationwide to push for shots and ultimately let people make up their own minds.
Japan’s constitution enshrines civil liberties. For practical purposes, it didn’t deploy lockdowns or mask rules as part of its pandemic approach. “Even if your company asks you to get vaccinated, you can choose not to if you do not want to,” the ministry said.
Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University, noted that there is strong peer pressure in Japan, but ultimately the vaccine wasn’t politicized in the country – unlike in the United States.
Watch the video below to know more about how Japan’s government respects its citizens’ freedom of choice.
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