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Japan’s failure to vaccinate girls against human papillomavirus

Published:November 27, 2014DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2014.11.037

      Objective

      Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination has proven to be effective for prevention of HPV infection and HPV-associated precancerous cervical lesions.

      Rimer BK, Harper H, Witte ON. Accelerating HPV vaccine uptake: urgency for action to prevent cancer; a report to the President of the United States from the president’s cancer panel. Available at: http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualreports/hpv/PDF/PCP_Annual_Report_2012-2013.pdf#search='presidential+cancer+panel+HPV+rate'. Accessed Sept. 1, 2014.

      However, HPV vaccination rates have remained flat, and whether or not to vaccinate has become a social issue. In the United States in 2013, HPV vaccine coverage for girls ages 13-17 years was only 57%.

      Centers for Disease Control. Teen vaccination coverage, 2013 national immunization survey-teen (NIS-Teen). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/vaccination-coverage.html. Accessed Sept. 1, 2014.

      A notable inhibitory factor to getting vaccinated has been reports of possible adverse effects. Safety concerns among US parents have increased (4.5% in 2008 to 16.4% in 2010), as have intentions not to vaccinate their daughters against HPV (39.8% in 2008 to 43.9% in 2010; odds ratio for trend, 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 1.04–1.13).
      • Darden P.M.
      • Thompson D.M.
      • Roberts J.R.
      • et al.
      Reasons for not vaccinating adolescents: national immunization survey of teens, 2008-2010.

      Study Design

      In Japan, financial support of the government was initiated from 2011, and recommendation was initiated in April 2013. However, Japan has failed to capitalize on the HPV vaccine’s potential for cervical cancer prevention. Japanese media reports in May and June 2013 concerning the vaccine’s potential for adverse effects including complex regional pain syndrome and suspension of the government’s recommendation for the vaccination on June 14, 2013, have led to public distrust and a dramatic decrease in HPV vaccination rates.
      • Gilmour S.
      • Kanda M.
      • Kusumi E.
      • Tanimoto T.
      • Kami M.
      • Shibuya K.
      HPV vaccination program in Japan.
      To demonstrate the depth of the problem, we analyzed the HPV vaccine coverage for 7th-grade girls in Sakai, Japan. We looked at those who had initiated their 3-dosage series either before or after the negative media reports ran. Girls from 7-11th grade were vaccination targets, with vaccinations at the 7th-grade level being the most desirable.

      Results

      The first trimester of the Japanese school year runs from April 1 through late July; the summer break is about 6 weeks. The adverse Japanese media reports and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare suspension announcement occurred about 40 days prior to summer vacation, during which the girls in Sakai were expected to go to a clinic for HPV vaccination. During the summer vacation period of 2012, nearly half of the 7th-grade girls got an inoculation. However, in 2013, the number of girls vaccinated in May began to decrease following the news reports, and by late June it was almost 0 (Figure, A). The vaccination rates of the 7-10th graders who had an opportunity for vaccination prior to the media reports were between 57.8-74.8% (2012). However, following the adverse reports, the rate plunged from 65.4% (2012) to 3.9% (2013) (incidence rate ratio, 0.060; 95% confidence interval, 0.051–0.071) (Figure, B). The girls received HPV vaccination mostly in the 7th grade. The rate of the number of those vaccinated in 7th grade was 70.4% (7th grade: 2632; and 8-10th grade: 1105) in 2012. In 2013, not only the number of those vaccinated in 7th grade but also those in 8-10th grades decreased significantly (7th grade: 158; and 8-10th grade: 90).
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      FigureHPV vaccination rates in 2012 and 2013
      A, Comparison of proportion of 7th-grade girls in Sakai, Japan who received at least 1 dose of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine during months of 2012 or 2013. White arrow = intense airing of media reports of severe adverse effects in May and June 2013. Black arrow = governmental announcement on June 14, 2013, of its suspension of its active recommendation for HPV vaccination. B, Total accumulated vaccination rates of girls in 7-10th grades in Sakai, Japan in 2012 vs 2013.
      Ueda. Japan’s failure to vaccinate girls against HPV. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2015.

      Conclusion

      Improved education around the critical importance of HPV vaccine and screening for cervical cancer prevention is needed worldwide.

      Acknowledgments

      We would like to thank Dr G. S. Buzard for his constructive critique and editing of our manuscript and Dr Junko Yagi, Ms Funao, and Mr Hasegawa for their support.

      References

      1. Rimer BK, Harper H, Witte ON. Accelerating HPV vaccine uptake: urgency for action to prevent cancer; a report to the President of the United States from the president’s cancer panel. Available at: http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualreports/hpv/PDF/PCP_Annual_Report_2012-2013.pdf#search='presidential+cancer+panel+HPV+rate'. Accessed Sept. 1, 2014.

      2. Centers for Disease Control. Teen vaccination coverage, 2013 national immunization survey-teen (NIS-Teen). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/vaccination-coverage.html. Accessed Sept. 1, 2014.

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        • Thompson D.M.
        • Roberts J.R.
        • et al.
        Reasons for not vaccinating adolescents: national immunization survey of teens, 2008-2010.
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        • Gilmour S.
        • Kanda M.
        • Kusumi E.
        • Tanimoto T.
        • Kami M.
        • Shibuya K.
        HPV vaccination program in Japan.
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