Progress and challenges for the Japanese immunization program: Beyond the "vaccine gap"

Vaccine. 2018 Jul 16;36(30):4582-4588. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.01.092. Epub 2018 Jun 19.


The Japanese immunization program has made considerable recent progress. The introduction of several new vaccines, especially foreign-produced vaccines, and the inclusion of important new vaccines in the National Immunization Program (NIP) are closing the "vaccine gap", i.e., the delay in the Japanese immunization program relative to programs in other developed countries. Major progress in the Japanese immunization program since 2014 includes (1) elimination of measles in March 2015, (2) introduction of a varicella vaccine as a routine immunization in the NIP in October 2015, and (3) introduction of hepatitis B virus vaccines as routine immunizations in the NIP in October 2016. Despite these promising developments, important issues remain. First, the government withdrew the active recommendation for human papilloma virus vaccines temporarily in 2013. The withdrawal has continued and unresolved despite new scientific evidence confirming the safety of these vaccines. Second, a few important voluntary vaccines, including vaccines for mumps and rotavirus, have not been included in the NIP since their introduction to Japan. Finally, there are concerns related to a shortage of mandatory domestic vaccines, which was caused by a natural disaster in the area where a vaccine-producing factory was located. Additionally, the manufacturer included unauthorized additives in some vaccine products with falsifying the production-process records. To avoid problems related to vaccine shortages, essential vaccines need to be stockpiled, and the future vaccine needs for children should to be discussed. New initiatives must continue to close the vaccine gap, as this will protect children living in Japan from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Keywords: Human papilloma virus vaccine; Immunization program; Japan; Measles elimination; Vaccine gap; Vaccine shortage; Varicella vaccine; hepatitis B vaccine.

MeSH terms

  • Hepatitis B / immunology
  • Hepatitis B / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / methods*
  • Immunization Schedule
  • Japan
  • Mumps / immunology
  • Mumps / prevention & control
  • Rotavirus Vaccines / immunology
  • Vaccination / methods


  • Rotavirus Vaccines