Govt releases data on MMR side effects
The Yomiuri Shimbun/Daily Yomiuri - Japan; Apr 17, 2002

OSAKA: The central government has released documents on the controversial
measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine after a group of plaintiffs
invoked a new public information disclosure law, The Yomiuri Shimbun has

The group intends to produce the documents, which also allegedly expose a
government cover-up of data to delay banning the vaccine, as evidence in a
suit that claims the vaccine caused the deaths of their children.

The government's about-turn comes despite a ruling in its favor in May by
the Osaka District Court denying the plaintiffs' request, where the 350
million yen lawsuit was filed. The court had ruled the documents were
intended only for internal use.

The MMR vaccine was introduced in 1989 by the former Health and Welfare
Ministry. It was discontinued in April 1993 as it had caused many cases of
aseptic meningitis, a side-effect of mumps.

The plaintiffs expect the documents will arm them with strong evidence that
the government manipulated crucial details of the vaccine, including its
side effects.

Citing the Civil Procedure Code, lawyers for the group requested in
December 2000 that the court order the ministry to release the documents,
including those made by the ministry's committee on vaccination at the
Council on Public Health, to confirm alleged links between the vaccine and
dangerous side effects, and which parties are responsible.

After the court rejected the request in May, the plaintiffs' lawyers asked
the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to reveal the documents, citing the
then new information disclosure law.

The documents include records of ministry research done in every prefecture
on the frequency of side effects caused by the vaccine covering the six
months following the vaccine's introduction.

According to the documents, the October 1989 interim report of the research
includes data indicating that one in every 637 children in Gunma Prefecture
and one in every 706 children in Miyazaki Prefecture suffered side effects.

The vaccination committee, however, did not discuss these figures at a
meeting held on Oct. 25 that year. It instead focused on the lowest figure,
in Aichi Prefecture, in which was one in every 28,477 children suffered
side effects and announced the frequency was "one in every several thousand
to 30,000."

The final calculation revealed that 311 of 630,157 children who took the
vaccine suffered side effects, and the committee on Dec. 25 that year
revised the figure in the data to "one in several thousand." effects was as
much as one in every several hundred. The commission, however, did not
reveal this.

The documents also include data on the number of inpatients (39 as of
December 1989). The committee, however, reported that symptoms of the
aseptic meningitis side effect were slight and that all of the victims had

The documents have already been used during testimony in court.

The suit will be concluded on May 16, eight years and five months after it
was filed.

"I believe the documents clearly reveal how the central government hid
undesirable data and delayed discontinuation of the vaccine," lawyer
Tatsuro Shigemura said.