Friday, February 7, 2003

1,900 got expired measles vaccine (in 1993)

Friday, February 7, 2003 at 09:30 JST
TOKYO - As many as 1,900 children may have been given shots of a
measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine that had already passed its expiry date
during the seven months up to the time such vaccinations were banned April
1993, Kyodo News learned Thursday.

The Health and Welfare Ministry, the predecessor of the current Ministry of
Health, Labor and Welfare, apparently did not disclose the use of the
expired vaccine or report it to a sub-panel of the ministry's Council on
Public Health that had been discussing rampant cases of the MMR vaccine's
side effects.

A group supporting victims of the vaccine's side effects alleges that the
government deliberately covered up the expired vaccine's use.

An expired vaccine "will not lose its effectiveness immediately or raise
the risk of side effects," a ministry official said, but added, "The use of
expired vaccines is naturally a problem. We would like to look into the
case to find out why that happened."

The vaccine was introduced in 1989 to protect children from the three
diseases in a single shot.

Production of the stock used for the MMR vaccine was banned in 1991 after
it caused side effects in a large number of children. The expiry date for
the vaccine was September 1992.

According to vaccine reports that prefectures submitted to the health
ministry at the time and other materials, 1,829 people were given the
vaccine in eight prefectures between October 1992 and April 1993.

Kumamoto Prefecture saw the largest number of people who had the expired
vaccine at 801, followed by Hokkaido at 318.

Data gathered by members of the predecessor body of the National Institute
of Infectious Diseases show that in Tokyo and Kanagawa, two prefectures
with no existing records on MMR vaccine use, a total of 104 people were
given the vaccine.

In all, 1,933 received the vaccine over the period from October 1992
through April the following year.

The health ministry said, however, that the figure may include people who
had the vaccine before September, the month it expired, noting that some
reports may have come in late.

The ministry recently found an in-house document showing it had received
reports on five boys aged between 1 and 4 who developed aseptic meningitis
after receiving the expired MMR vaccine, but it had kept the fact concealed.

A court ruling is expected in March on a suit filed by people who remain
disabled due to the vaccine's side effects and the families who lost their
children because of the side effects