Photo/Illutration The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan will cover the costs of getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) for women born between fiscal 1997 and fiscal 2005 who were not encouraged to receive the shots.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s expert panel approved on Dec. 23 funding for administering the vaccine to these women to prevent cervical cancer.

The women were eligible for the vaccine during the period when the central government decided not to proactively recommend it amid a public scare over whether it would cause side effects.

In the next fiscal year, these women will be between 17 and 25 years old.

They will be able to get the vaccine free of charge for three years, starting from April next year, under the government’s plan. If they experience health problems after taking the vaccine, they will become eligible for state support under the Immunization Law.

Normally, women are given three doses over six months. However, some have only had one or two doses. The government will consider whether to cover the cost for the remainder of the doses for these women if they were born between fiscal 1997 and fiscal 2005.

Japan approved the use of the HPV vaccine in 2009. In April 2013, girls between the sixth grade of elementary school and the first year of high school, aged between 11 to 16, became eligible for free regular HPV vaccinations.

After numerous reports of various side effects emerged after vaccinations, including pain in much of the body, the ministry stopped proactively recommending them in June that year.

But eligible women remained able to get the vaccine free of charge.

In November this year, the ministry decided to resume proactively recommending the vaccine after determining that no research had confirmed a relationship between the various symptoms that were reported and the vaccine.

Local authorities will start sending notifications about regular HPV vaccinations, including vaccine vouchers, to eligible women and girls in April next year, although some have already started mailing them out.