子宮頸がん ワクチンの副作用対策を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Quick action needed in dealing with side effects of cervical cancer vaccine
子宮頸がん ワクチンの副作用対策を急げ

The most important task is to clarify any cause and effect relationship between the vaccinations and the side effects.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry recently delivered to an expert panel the results of a follow-up survey on patients who experienced negative side effects from a cervical cancer vaccine.

The ministry’s report confirmed 186 people had not returned to full health and were still suffering from serious side effects. In response to this finding, the panel decided to put off resuming recommending that people receive the vaccination. This recommendation has been suspended since June 2013.

The panel had no option on this matter, given that the cause of the side effects has yet to be pinpointed.

About 3.38 million women received the vaccination from December 2009, when the vaccine went on the market, to November 2014. The survey covered 2,584 of these women who reported suffering some sort of symptoms. The survey was able to confirm developments in the cases of 1,739 women.

The proportion of people who reported side effects is not remarkably high compared with rates in other nations, where such vaccinations are being increasingly widely done.

However, a significant number of specialists have said that Japan is conspicuous for patients suffering from comparatively severe symptoms. The various ongoing symptoms include headaches, fatigue, aching joints and a decline in cognitive function. These are serious health issues.

There were limits to how much data could be gleaned from this survey, which was based mostly on information these patients reported to doctors who treated them. There needs to be a detailed examination of the diagnoses and treatments given to these patients, as well as a comparative review of the health conditions of women in the same age brackets who did not receive the vaccinations, and other factors.

Reducing distrust vital

The health ministry will establish consultation counters in every prefecture and strengthen support provided to the victims, including treatment. It also has kicked into gear a stalled review of relief provided to people who suffered health problems.

It is impossible to reduce the risk accompanying a vaccination to zero. Advanced nations such as the United States and those in Europe have set up systems to quickly pay compensation when there are suspicions a vaccination has caused negative side effects. If the government takes a long time to provide relief, distrust would grow among patients and hamper steps to prevent infectious diseases from spreading.

We think such relief measures should be swiftly put in place in Japan, too.

The number of women in Japan with cervical cancer is increasing, with about 10,000 developing the disease each year. About 3,000 die from it annually.

The cervical cancer vaccine is said to prevent the virus that causes the cancer from being transmitted from men to women through sexual relations. In Australia, such a vaccine is administered to both males and females during routine immunizations.

Although the vaccine is currently not promoted in Japan, the system in place includes it among routine vaccinations for women. People wishing to receive the vaccine can have it subsidized by the government, but clearly the current situation does not enable them to take the vaccine with peace of mind.

Having regular checkups is important for detecting cervical cancer at an early stage. However, this does not contribute to preventing the disease, so the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and other bodies have stressed the significance of the inoculations.

Reducing distrust in the vaccine will be a major prerequisite for achieving this. The health ministry must move fast on this issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 24, 2015)

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