And how one doctor is fighting back.

A doctor who has been battling anti-vaccine campaigners in Japan just won a prestigious award for standing up for science.

Riko Muranaka, of Kyoto University, was awarded the 2017 John Maddox prize for her work uncovering the pseudoscience at the heart of widespread fear in Japan about the HPV vaccine. The prestigious prize is awarded each year by the journal Nature, the Kohn Foundation, and the charity Sense about Science, to a person who promotes sound evidence in the face of hostility.

Muranaka’s story explains how vaccine panic takes off — and how hard it can be to undo, even with the best-intentioned efforts.

In Japan, coverage rates for the HPV vaccine have plummeted from 70 percent in 2013 to less than 1 percent today. This happened after a preliminary (and allegedly fraudulent) mouse study showing the vaccine caused brain damage was spread by the media, along with unconfirmed video reports of girls in wheelchairs and having seizures after getting immunized.

Anti-vaccine groups also blamed the shot for causing chronic pain and heart and neurological troubles. The government didn’t help matters when it decided to suspend proactive recommendations for HPV vaccines, despite finding no evidence to support the claims parents and anti-vaccine groups were making.

Sketchy claims sparked a vaccine panic in Japan, despite sound science

To be clear, the HPV vaccine is recognized by public health and scientific groups around the world as a safe and effective tool for preventing cancers. In the US, it’s recommended for boys and girls ages 9 to 26.

There’s no good data suggesting there are significant safety concerns caused by the HPV vaccine. The largest-ever overview of all the available safety data on the vaccine from 2006 to 2015, published in the <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" Read More Here