Gardasil Debate Still On One Year After It Was Taken From Japan's Schedule

Dawn Papple

It has been a year since Japan stopped actively recommending Gardasil on their national vaccine schedule after serious side effects were reported. In Japan, it has been taken off of the list of required vaccines. A causal connection between Gardasil and the serious side effects reported in Japan has not been established though, and in the U.S., the push for vaccination against HPV is stronger than ever.

"As a result of discussion at a meeting of Committee on Adverse Reactions of Immunization and Vaccine Department in the Health Science Council of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare held on June 14, 2013, it is not actively recommended at present," the chart from Japan's IDSC explains. "However, it is available as the routine vaccination."

"The U.S. government has taken the opposite approach amid equally alarming cases of serious side effects," Judicial Watch stated regarding the Japanese ministry's approach towards the Gardasil vaccine. "Not only does the Obama administration continue recommending the vaccine, it spends large sums of taxpayer dollars promoting it and works hard to keep details involving its dangers secret."

Merck, which manufactures Gardasil, issued a statement after the Japanese decision to pull the controversial vaccine from the recommended schedule.

"While direct causal relationship between the vaccines and serious symptoms observed after inoculation has not been established at this time, we fully understand the anxiety felt by many people in Japan. In response to this decision, we will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders, including (the health ministry), to monitor and verify safety data toward resumption of active promotion for HPV vaccination as soon as possible," a company spokesperson stated, according to Medscape.

According to Merck's prescribing information for Gardasil, the most common systemic side effects that were reported during Gardasil trials were headache (28.2 percent) and fever (13.0 percent). Arthralgia also occurred in 1.2 perccent of girls given the Gardasil vaccine.

Reported side effects after injection with Gardasil "include seizures, brain damage, blindness, paralysis, speech problems, pancreatitis and short-term memory loss," according to the the Tokyo Times.

According to Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading news, an estimated 3.28 million people received the vaccination, and a causal effect was not assumed when Japan pulled the vaccine from the schedule. The report did indicate, though, that it is rare for the Japanese ministry to withdraw a vaccine recommendation.

Around the world, the vaccine is also associated with similar concerns in a minority of parents.

"On April 2, 2014, Michèle Rivas, MEP (Member of the European Parliament), called for a moratorium on the Gardasil vaccine among the member states." Inquisitr writer Terri LaPoint reported, quoting Rivas as saying member states of the EU "must stop recommending this vaccine until more studies are conducted on Gardasil, its effectiveness and dangers."

The Japan Times recently reported on a situation in Colombia that some officials are calling a case of mass hysteria. Approximately 200 girls in El Carmen de Bolivar reported symptoms ranging from fainting to numbness after their Gardasil vaccinations. Parents in Colombia are demanding an investigation into any connection between the mysterious pain and illness and their daughters' Gardasil vaccinations.

Veronica Trulin is the head of communications in Latin America for Gardasil's manufacturer. She told Japan Times that all of the vaccines in Colombia met required quality and safety standards.

"We don't comment on speculation about our products," Trulin responded to Japan Times in an email about the Gardasil concerns in Columbia.

Updated to add quote from Japan's IDSC, and clarify Japan's recommendations.

[Photo by Jan Christian]