In June 2013 the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) suspended its HPV vaccination recommendation after a series of highly publicized alleged adverse events following immunization stoked public doubts about the vaccine's safety. This paper examines the global spread of the news of Japan's HPV vaccine suspension through online media, and takes a retrospective look at non-Japanese media sources that were used to support those claiming HPV vaccine injury in Japan.
Methods: Two searches were conducted. One searched relevant content in an archive of Google Alerts on vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases. The second search was conducted using Google Search on January 6th 2014 and on July 18th 2014, using the keywords, "HPV vaccine Japan" and "cervical cancer vaccine Japan." Both searches were used as Google Searches render more (and some different) results than Google Alerts.
Results: Online media collected and analyzed totalled 57. Sixty 3 percent were published in the USA, 23% in Japan, 5% in the UK, 2% in France, 2% in Switzerland, 2% in the Philippines, 2% in Kenya and 2% in Denmark. The majority took a negative view of the HPV vaccine, the primary concern being vaccine safety.
Discussion: The news of Japan's suspension of the HPV vaccine recommendation has traveled globally through online media and social media networks, being applauded by anti-vaccination groups but not by the global scientific community. The longer the uncertainty around the Japanese HPV vaccine recommendation persists, the further the public concerns are likely to travel.
Keywords: AEFI, Adverse Event Following Vaccination; BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation; CBCD, Center for the Biology of Chronic Disease; CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome; FDA, Food and Drug Administration (US); GAVCS, Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety; HPV; HPV, Human papillomavirus; Japan; MHLW, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (Japan); MHRA, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency; NCNP, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry (Japan); NIP, National Immunization Program; Q&A, Questions and Answers; VARRC, Vaccine Adverse Reactions Review Committee; WHO, World Health Organization; cervical cancer; social media; vaccine; vaccine hesitancy.