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Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy July 11, 2022

No evidence Shinzo Abe was assassinated over his response to COVID-19

If Your Time is short

  • Police are still investigating the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

  • The shooter told investigators he wasn’t politically motivated and wanted to kill Abe because he believed Abe was linked to a group he resented, according to reports.

  • Japan recalled some tainted Moderna COVID-19 shots in September 2021, but it continued vaccinating against COVID-19 and did not authorize using ivermectin to treat infections.

Authorities in Japan are working to piece together how and why a gunman assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe using a homemade firearm on July 8.

Police said Tetsuya Yamagami, the 41-year-old shooter, denied having a political motive and told investigators he wanted to kill Abe because he believed Abe was affiliated with an organization he disliked, according to reports from the Guardian and other outlets

Police did not identify the organization, but Japanese media reported it was a religious group that the shooter’s mother donated money to before she went bankrupt. The leader of the Japan branch of the Unification Church, whose members are colloquially referred to as "Moonies" and are believed by some experts to act like a cult, said Yamagami’s mother was a member. 

The investigation into Abe’s assassination is continuing as of July 11. But amid the information gap, misinformation over what happened is spreading online.

One conspiratorial Instagram post baselessly suggested that Abe was killed for shunning the COVID-19 vaccines and embracing the drug ivermectin as he led Japan’s pandemic response.

"Assassinated Japanese P.M. didn’t follow (World Economic Forum) orders," said the July 10 post. "Didn’t mandate vaccines, sent 1.6 million doses back and gave citizens ivermectin. Make sense now?"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post is unsubstantiated and factually misleading; there’s no evidence Abe was killed over his COVID-19 response, and that response did not involve promoting ivermectin over vaccines.

Featured Fact-check

The notion that Japan under Abe had abandoned its vaccine rollout and started treating COVID-19 patients with ivermectin gained traction in October 2021 thanks to a false blog post from far-right radio host Hal Turner, who has a history of pushing conspiracy theories. 

COVID-19 vaccination in Japan

The Japanese government does not mandate COVID-19 vaccination.

Japan in September 2021 recalled about 1.63 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines after a human error in production led to contamination.

But Japan never stopped all vaccination efforts. The country has administered more than 280 million vaccine doses as of July 11, according to Our World in Data and Reuters. About 81% of the country has been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data

Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, is not listed among the medications approved for COVID-19 by the Japanese government. (U.S. federal health agencies also do not approve ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19.)

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that Abe was assassinated because he "didn’t mandate vaccines, sent 1.6 million doses back and gave citizens ivermectin."

There is no evidence that Abe was killed for this reason; the investigation into his assassination continues, but police have said the shooter denied a political motive, according to reports.

The Instagram post built on previously debunked allegations that Japan scrapped its vaccination efforts to focus on prescribing ivermectin for COVID-19. Although the country recalled some tainted Moderna shots, it continued vaccinating and did not authorize using ivermectin. 

We rate this post False.

Our Sources

Instagram post, July 10, 2022

Japan Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, "PMDA’s Efforts to Combat COVID-19," accessed July 11, 2022

Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, "COVID-19 Vaccines," accessed July 11, 2022

Our World in Data, "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations," accessed July 11, 2022

The Associated Press, "Unification Church distances itself from Abe’s assassination," July 11, 2022

Reuters, "Unification Church confirms mother of Abe suspect is member," July 11, 2022

The Guardian, "Shinzo Abe killing: ‘Moonies’ church confirms suspect’s mother is member," July 11, 2022

The Washington Post, "Japan probes Abe assassination motive as police chief admits ‘problems,'" July 9, 2022

Bloomberg, "Who Shot Shinzo Abe and Why? Everything We Know So Far," July 8, 2022

USA Today, "Fact check: Japan did not stop its COVID-19 vaccine rollout and switch to ivermectin to treat virus," Nov. 5, 2021, "Japan Continues to Use Vaccines, Not Ivermectin, to Fight COVID-19," Nov. 4, 2021

Snopes, "Did Japan Halt COVID-19 Vax Rollout Due to Ivermectin Success?" Nov. 4, 2021

Reuters, "Fact Check-Japan has not abandoned its COVID-19 vaccine rollout in favour of ivermectin," Nov. 1, 2021

The Hal Turner Radio Show, "Japan drops vax rollout, goes to Ivermectin, ENDS COVID almost overnight," Oct. 27, 2021

Reuters, "Japan's Takeda says 'human error' caused contamination of Moderna vaccines," Oct. 1, 2021

Moderna, "Joint Statement from Moderna and Takeda on the Investigation of Suspended Lots of Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine in Japan," Sept. 1, 2021

PolitiFact, "Scientific evidence does not support ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19," April 13, 2022

PolitiFact, "Japan is still vaccinating people against COVID-19," Oct. 29, 2021

PolitiFact, "Japan has not approved ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment, and it's still using Moderna vaccine," Sept. 14, 2021

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More by Bill McCarthy

No evidence Shinzo Abe was assassinated over his response to COVID-19

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