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Last week, I got my second dose of the HPV vaccine.

I got my first dose in August, exactly two weeks after my covid vaccine. I chose to get the Gardasil 9 vaccine, which protects against 9 HPV types(「シルガード9」in Japanese). This is the largest number of valence available, thus providing the best protections amongst the three types available (2, 4, 9).

The Gardasil 9 vaccine was just approved last December in Japan. Although costs vary across clinics, it is usually around ¥33,000 per jab. (Vaccinations require three doses)

Since I am not eligible for the public-funded ‘routine vaccination’, I will be paying a total of about ¥100,000. It is a lot of money, but my family and I agreed that the vaccine is worth the price.

what is it like to get an hpv vaccine?

First, you will have to find a clinic around you that provides HPV vaccine and make a reservation. I got mine at a clinic in Chitose Funabashi station.
A simple google search will lead you to one!

On my reservation day, I took my health insurance card (保険証), vaccination card(接種記録カード), and prevaccination screening questionnare(予診表). You will get the questionnaire at the clinic when you get the first dose if you are non-eligible for the publically funded vaccination. (unlike the covid vaccine, in which the questionnaire was sent to our homes).

Once you arrive at the clinic, you fill in an online form called the “vaccine Q diary”, which is an online system for those who get the Gardasil 9 vaccines that manage patient information.

There were some technical difficulties with the online form for me, but the doctor contacted the company right away and they solved the problem quite smoothly.

I was led into the doctor’s office and was asked to sit on the bed instead of the chair.

Since I have an underlying medical condition and take several medications for it, the doctor went through a quick confirmation of it. He also checked whether I was vaccinated for covid, and when I got it.

I got the shot on my upper left arm.

The HPV vaccine hurt a little more than a usual vaccine (such as influenza or covid vaccines) since it is an intramuscular injection, but it was super quick and bearable.

After that, I was asked to lay on the bed for about 30 seconds, and once they checked that I was okay I went back to the waiting room, where I waited 30 minutes.

If you feel alright after 30 minutes, you make payments and you are good to go!

I had no side effects for both my first and second doses.
I got a sore arm after my covid vaccines, but I didn’t have similar symptoms for the HPV vaccine.

What is the hpv vaccine?

This vaccine helps to prevent cancers caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), including cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer. It also prevents genital warts, anal cancers, mouth, throat, head, and neck cancers in men and women.

One is usually infected with HPV through the mouth, throat, or genital area; any sexual activity can spread the virus. Thus, using a condom does not prevent all infections.

If a girl is vaccinated before their sexual debut, the vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer. Vaccination after one’s sexual debut is still effective, halving cases of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is responsible for about 2,800 Japanese womens’ deaths yearly and is oftentimes referred to as “mother-killer” as the disease affects young women and treatments can involve uterus removal.

types of hpv vaccines

There are three types of the vaccine; bivalent, quadrivalent, and 9vHPV. They each provide protection against 2, 4, and 9 HPV types.

Japan’s hpv vaccination system

Japan regards the HPV vaccine as routine vaccination (定期接種), and girls from elementary school sixth grade to high school first graders are eligible. This means that they can get the three doses for free.

However, all boys, men, and women above this age must pay for the vaccine themselves.

In addition, everyone has to pay for the 9 valent vaccines. These cost about ¥90,000 to ¥100,000 in total. The bivalent and quadrivalent vaccines cost ¥50,000 to ¥60,000 in total if you are not eligible for the routine vaccination.

Furthermore, after a series of reports of speculations of heavy side effects of the vaccine, the Ministry of Health has stopped actively recommending HPV vaccination. It has been 8 years since it has stopped, and vaccination rates ever since have been despairing; rates of those born after the year 2001 are all close to 0%.

Given this, and the drastic increase in the scientific evidence of the vaccine’s safety and prevention rates of cervical cancer, Japan has officially announced that they will restart actively recommending HPV vaccination.

Japan’s low HPV vaccination rates are calling international concern; WHO has commented towards Japan that “young women are being left vulnerable to HPV-related cancers that otherwise could be prevented”.

Some researchers estimate an additional 5000 deaths from cervical cancer among females born between 1994 to 2007 due to the suspension of the proactive recommendations by the government.

There are many issues surrounding HPV vaccination in Japan; boys are not eligible for routine vaccination, even though there is evidence that vaccinating both sexes further eliminates HPV-related cancers. Girls who were within the age range of routine vaccinations while the recommendation from the ministry of health was suspended are not granted any financial support. There is still very low trust toward the vaccine within the general population due to sensations media reports of side effects (which were proved to be unrelated to the vaccine itself in later research).

There is an urgent need to spread awareness of such issues and increase understanding of the vaccine.

I will be engaging in further efforts to spread awareness so that everyone that wishes to get vaccinated can, with the appropriate and precise information.

Below is a reference list + other reliable sources. Check them out if you are interested!

References

(JPN) Information on the costs of the HPV vaccine and who is eligible for a free vaccination.

(JPN) about cervical cancer: https://w-health.jp/carcinoma/cervicalcancer/

(JPN) Project by doctors aiming to spread understanding of HPV vaccines and diseases: https://minpapi.jp

(JPN) about the 9 valent HPV vaccine: https://ph-clinic.org/blog/595/

(ENG) about the HPV vaccine: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/in-depth/hpv-vaccine/art-20047292

(ENG) about the HPV vaccine: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/hpv-human-papillomavirus-vaccine/

(ENG) “HPV vaccine hesitancy in Japan could result in 5,000 additional deaths” research press release: https://www.global.hokudai.ac.jp/blog/hpv-vaccine-hesitancy-in-japan-could-result-in-5000-additional-death/

(ENG) research on the impacts of 2, 4, 9 valent HPV vaccines: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4964711/

(ENG) “Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine safety Statement on Safety of HPV vaccines” (2015) WHO

Utako Kawakami

ICU Japan '24

Hi, I'm Utako and I am a sophomore at International Christian University!
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