Two groups set up by the health ministry have started full-scale studies of whether cervical cancer vaccines are directly linked to severe pain that has affected some young women.
The two groups will collect data through clinical studies at 17 hospitals nationwide. The group led by Shinshu University professor Shuichi Ikeda will extend its studies to cerebral and neural areas, while the other, headed by Aichi Medical University professor Takahiro Ushida, will seek ways of easing the pain through cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as look into the causes.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare started recommending in April that girls between the sixth grade and the first year of high school be given cervical cancer vaccines under a free vaccination program. However, the ministry suspended the recommendation in June following reports of adverse reactions.
There were 155.7 reports of side effects per million for one of the vaccinations, and 245.1 for the other. This is 20 to 30 times higher than for flu vaccines.
A high school girl from Yokohama has to use a wheelchair because the pain following a vaccination was so severe. “The pain never goes away. I want to be cured as soon as possible,” she said.
Ikeda, who has so far examined six young women affected by arthritis and other pains following vaccination, said that the injections may have caused pain accompanied by “autonomic disorders.” He is searching for a link between the pains and a vaccine component.
According to an association of victims of cervical cancer vaccinations, pain is not the sole side effect.
Some 160 people have complained of convulsions. Among other possible side effects, an 18-year-old girl in Saitama Prefecture is now unable to sit without assistance after being vaccinated for a second time.
About 2,700 women die of cervical cancer each year in Japan. The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology urged the health ministry in August to promptly resume recommending cervical cancer vaccinations once their safety is confirmed, saying their effectiveness and safety are recognized worldwide.