No serious safety concerns reported after Japan resumed promoting HPV vaccines

The government building in the Kasumigaseki district of Tokyo that houses the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO — A health ministry panel said on June 10 that human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines are “free of serious safety concerns” in its first assessment since Japanese authorities resumed actively promoting the inoculations in April this year.

The expert panel made the determination as there was no rise in the frequency of reports suggesting HPV vaccine side effect compared to before the government started promoting them again.

The panel assessed suspected side effects reports from medical institutions from January to April this year, during which promotion of the vaccines restarted. A majority of cervical cancer is due to the human papillomavirus. For HPV vaccine Gardasil, which protects against four types of the virus, there were 17 suspected cases of side effects, or a frequency of 0.0072%. The panel stated that this figure was “not exceptionally high” when compared to the pre-promotion frequency of 0.0209%. There were no side effect reports regarding Cervarix, which protects against two types of the virus.

A program to vaccinate girls from the sixth grade in elementary school to the first year of high school for free was launched in April 2013. However, as symptoms including full-body pain were reported immediately afterward, the health ministry halted actively promoting the vaccines that June.

The committee decided in January 2022 that for six months following resumed HPV vaccine promotion, the safety assessments — usually conducted once every three months — should be carried out once a month.

(Japanese original by Sooryeon Kim, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)