The controversy on HPV vaccination in Japan: Criticism of the ethical validity of the arguments for the suspension of the proactive recommendation

Taketoshi Okita, Aya Enzo, Yasuhiro Kadooka, Masashi Tanaka, Atsushi Asai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was integrated into Japan's national immunization program (NIP) in April 2013. However, numerous instances of serious adverse reactions were widely reported in the media, resulting in the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) suspending the official recommendation of the HPV vaccine on June 14, 2013. Investigating the reported incidents, the Vaccine Adverse Reactions Review Committee (VARRC)—an MHLW advisory committee—found no high-quality evidence supporting a causal relationship between the reported events and the HPV vaccination. However, rather than lifting the suspension, they have opted to maintain a “pseudo informed consent” confirming the perceptions of Japanese citizens regarding the vaccine. Accordingly, there appears to be a fundamental difference in the approach to vaccine policymaking between Japan (MHLW/VARRC) and other countries and the World Health Organization, which base policy decisions on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine. Consequently, the arguments for the suspension of the HPV vaccine recommendation are not ethically appropriate. Relevant bodies must make a clear decision regarding the HPV vaccine and its status in the NIP: the proactive recommendation must either be reinstated or the HPV vaccine legal framework altered to rely entirely on voluntary individual decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-204
Number of pages6
JournalHealth Policy
Volume124
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
  • Japan
  • Public health ethics
  • Vaccine policymaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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