Japan faced an HPV vaccination controversy after rumors of adverse effects in girls. In the last months, the vaccination rates went down from 70% to just 1%.
The Human Papillomavirus is a DNA virus that can create infections on skin level and on mucous membranes which could lead to cancer. For example, HPV16 and HPV18 can cause 70% of the cases of cervical cancer.
While 70% of the infections can regress to the subclinical stage in one year, and 90% in two years, if the symptoms persist then the women are at high risk of precancerous lesions. The Papanicolau test helps women to detect the abnormal cells that can turn into cancer.
In Japan, the government withdrew the recommendation for the HPV vaccine in 2013. Medical experts say that the alleged adverse effects were, in fact, psychosomatic reactions, and the controversy was started by an advocacy group that was against vaccination.
The report that had been published in that year showed 50 girls who had symptoms of chronic pain and another 100 who had to skip school because of the HPV vaccination. The story spread quickly on the internet and TV news programs and created a mass reaction.
Even though the Japanese government canceled its recommendation, the vaccine remained available on the market so the parents could decide for themselves whether or not their girls would benefit or not from the vaccine. The authorities also set up a scheme to handle the adverse effects.
Two vaccines had been approved in Japan, one being partially supported financially by the government. By June 2013, almost 8 million people in the country received the HPV vaccine.
The World Health Organization declared the HPV vaccine to be safe. However, there were groups in Japan that reported girls having secondary effects such as seizures, convulsions, severe headaches and partial paralysis.
Even if health experts in Japan declared that the side effects could not be explained by the vaccine alone and that the chronic pain syndrome could be just a psychological reaction, the self-proclaimed victims of the vaccination filed a class action lawsuit against the government.
However, the authorities have already compensated the girls who reported having health problems that were reported as being related to the HPV vaccination.
The victim group says that 186 of the girls did not recover from the health issues arising after the vaccination.
The Japanese government now plans to install further system management plans for the girls who were affected by the vaccine. The medical experts also believe that, once the public trust is regained, the authorities must come with a clear and evidence-based communication plan for the HPV vaccination campaign.
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