Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gee, weren't we told they were safe for children? Japan suspends 2 vaccines while authorities investigate infant deaths

A safety panel convenes in Japan Tuesday to examine whether two vaccines widely used around the world contributed to the deaths of five children in the past month.

Japan's health ministry ordered doctors to stop immunizing infants with the vaccines while authorities investigate Pfizer's Prevenar vaccine and Sanofi Pasteur's ActHIB vaccine -- commonly given to infants in the United States and other developed nations.

The health ministry said it suspended the vaccines because the children all died within a short period of time; four died last week and one died in February.

Three of the infants had underlying medical conditions, the health ministry said. Authorities are investigating the medical history of one of the children, and the fifth child had no apparent illness at the time of vaccination, according to the ministry.

Both companies maintain that their vaccines -- which are aimed at stopping bacteria that can cause meningitis, pneumonia and other serious infections -- are safe. (read more)