I was shocked to read “Japan struggles to ditch its ‘vaccine backwater’ image” in the May 11 edition. Not so much that Japan has struggled with government-supported vaccination programs, of which I am aware, but because The Japan Times seems to equivocate the opinion of an ex-official with a fringe opinion to the vaccination recommendation of the World Health Organization.
Given the recent international measles epidemic due to a lack of vaccinations, it is clear that vaccinations are key to global health. Any student of medical science knows the evidence is irrefutable that the development of vaccines has saved hundreds of millions people worldwide from morbidity and mortality.
The story has five paragraphs discussing the extreme opinion of Hiroko Mori that all vaccines should be optional and the diseases they protect against aren’t so dangerous anyway. There is only one paragraph about the WHO’s recommendation, based on mountains of international data by panels of independent experts, that all governments actively support vaccination in order to achieve herd immunity. (This principle states if 90 percent of a population is vaccinated, it will protect the other 10 percent who cannot get vaccinated due to their compromised immune system.) It would be very interesting to know what the mainstream Japanese scientific community thinks of her opinion.
As readers may be aware, the immunization debate in the U.S. is particularly toxic, where blanket accusations of “fake news/science” abound. If you search for the name Hiroko Mori and vaccines, the results are almost exclusively anti-vaccine American message boards quoting her (with almost the same wording as this article) to support their message that vaccines are dangerous and should be avoided.
This article highlighting an extreme minority opinion could support vaccine hesitancy among the international community in Japan and further cement its status as a global vaccine “backwater.” While this newspaper has so many positive attributes, journalistic bias is a grave disservice to the community.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.