Health authorities in Japan have suspended the use of two vaccines for children. Review boards plan to study four separate deaths that occurred in close proximity to receiving vaccines. While these vaccines have only been offered in Japan for two years, the same vaccines have been available in Europe for 17 years.
Infant deaths in Japan
Health authorities in Japan have taken the unusual step of suspending medical use of Pfizer’s Prevenar and Sanofi’s ActHIB. Within days of receiving these vaccinations (among others), three infants younger than 1 and an 18-month-old died. These four deaths happened between March 2 and March 4. Some of these children had underlying health issues before their vaccinations.
Suspending vaccine use
In light of the recent infant deaths, Japan has suspended all use of these two major vaccines. There is no indication that these two vaccines have any causal relationship to the deaths of the children. These children received multiple vaccines at the same time. The suspension is expected to last a short period of time, only until the review boards can confirm that the vaccine had no role in the deaths. The Health Ministry estimates that this could last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
The problem of vaccine safety
The vaccine suspension in Japan comes just a few months after the suspected link between vaccines and autism was definitively disproved. Falling rates of vaccination in first-world countries have led to disease outbreaks in Europe and the U.S. that have killed hundreds. Vaccines are tested and certified by individual agencies within each country, and each country has different standards of vaccine safety. In a growingly global world, however, ensuring that the population is protected from dangerous illnesses while respecting national borders and individual beliefs is proving a difficult challenge.
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