• Kyodo

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The health ministry decided Thursday to provide free vaccines against cervical cancer to women who missed a chance to get shots after the government, in a decision since reversed, stopped actively promoting inoculations in 2013 following reports of adverse reactions.

The free vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, will be provided to women born between April 1997 and March 2006 over a three year period from next April.

The measure follows the ministry’s decision in November to resume in April the active promotion of the free inoculation program targeting schoolgirls.

The HPV vaccines are universally recognized as safe, with the World Health Organization setting a global target of 90% of girls being inoculated by age 15 for the 2020 to 2030 period.

However, many women in Japan failed to receive shots as they were not aware of the free inoculation scheme covering girls age 11 to 16 after the government stopped sending notices following reports of adverse reactions such as lasting pain.

The three-year relief measures will target women beyond the age of eligibility for the free inoculation, with the oldest being those in their mid-20s.

In the runup to the resumption of the free inoculation scheme’s active promotion, the ministry will strengthen medical and consultation services for those who developed adverse reactions after receiving shots and prepare leaflets to share the latest scientific knowledge about the vaccines.

In Japan, about 11,000 women develop cervical cancer and some 2,800 die of the disease annually, according to the ministry.

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