An anti-vax group who was blamed for a major outbreak in measles in Japan has apologised for the part they played.
Japan is currently in the midst of its worst measles outbreak in 10 years, with local authorities trying everything they can to contain the disease.
Many of the cases have been linked back to a religious group that doesn’t believe in medicine, after a number of people contracted the disease when attending a workshop held by the group last year.
Measles is a highly contagious (but preventable) viral disease, which symptoms include a high fever, characteristic red rash, and bloodshot eyes – among other symptoms.
Routine vaccinations for children are key in reducing the number of deaths caused by measles. But with people trusting vaccinations less and less, many are failing to vaccinate their children.
As reported by The Asahi Shimbun, figures released by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on February 19 showed the number of measles cases in Japan totalled 167 as of February 10 – the highest in at least a decade.
The worst-hit region was shown to be Mie Prefecture, which raised suspicions that a local religious organisation called Kyusei Shinkyo may have been to blame, Quartz reports.
This was because a number of people who were infected had contracted measles after attending a workshop held by the group in the city of Tsu late last year.
The group does not believe in medicine; according to their website, ‘medicine can cause disease’ and the group instead believes in treating illnesses through what it calls the ‘Divine Light’.
The group has since apologised for its role in the measles outbreak, saying they are praying for the complete recovery of all those affected.
They released a statement saying (translated):
From the bottom of my heart to expand the occurrence of ‘measles (measles)’ in this community, concerned about everything related to the public health center and everyone, a lot of troubles and inconvenience to everyone I apologize.
I pray for infected people as soon as possible. Earlier infected people in this community have already recovered, but we are making efforts under the guidance of public health centers to prevent further spread of infection.
Since this community is committed to religious life based on medicine-independent health and safe and secure food by natural farming methods in accordance with the teachings of natural respect and natural adaptation, there were some believers who were not vaccinated, and as a result many infected individuals appeared, resulting in social unrest.
Kyusei Shinkyo went on to say they will temporarily suspend meetings such as festivals and workshops, as well as stopping posting testimonials of ‘miracles’ on its homepage.
So why aren’t people vaccinating? The World Health Organization describes the vaccine as ‘safe, effective and inexpensive’, yet there is a growing distrust of vaccinations which the organisation says are based on ‘pure misinformation’.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).