Medscape UPDATED June 25, 2013
The Japanese government withdrew its recommendation to use human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines in girls last week, citing concerns from the public about adverse effects, according to news reports.
The announcement is in stark contrast to the pronouncement last week by health officials in the United States that vaccination rates in teenage girls should be increased after a study concluded that estimated vaccine effectiveness is “high.”
The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is not suspending vaccination, but has instructed local governments not to promote the use of the medicine while analyses are conducted about adverse effects, such as long-term pain and numbness, according to the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.
“The decision does not mean that the vaccine itself is problematic from the viewpoint of safety,” said Mariko Momoi, who heads a ministry task force looking into the controversy and is a vice president of the International University of Health and Welfare in O-tawara, Tochigi, Japan. “By implementing investigations, we want to offer information that can make the people feel more at ease.”
According to a report in the Japan Times, 8.29 million people had received the HPV vaccine as of December 2012, and there were 1968 cases of concerning adverse events reported as of March 2013. Of these adverse events, 106 were described as “serious cases of pains or body convulsions, pains in joints, or difficulty in walking.”
Those numbers translate to a rate of 12.8 serious cases of adverse events per 1 million inoculations, according to the report. This compares unfavorably with the 0.9 serious adverse events per million influenza inoculations in Japan and the 2.1 serious adverse events per million inoculations of inactivated polio vaccine.
However, the rate seen with the HPV vaccine is lower than that for the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, which is 26.0 serious cases per million inoculations.