Outdated vaccine injected into 1,000s of kids


March 2003

      Over 2,000 children were immunized a decade ago with unreliable
vaccines known for causing side effects and well past their use-by date, the
Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Wednesday.

      Physicians across Japan continued to inject children with vaccines for
mumps, measles and rubella even after the ministry had decided they no
longer should be used.

      But ministry officials said there was no danger in them doing so.

      "They're still effective (vaccines) even if they are about half a year
past their use-by date," a ministry spokesman said.

      Typically, the ministry's plan of action is more like one of inaction.

      "Our probe into the situation has left us with the impression that
individual physicians didn't pay sufficient care with what they were doing.
We will set up a panel of experts and look into the correct and fundamental
approach to take regarding immunization," the ministry spokesman said.

      Ministry officials said the MMR vaccinations were given to children
aged from 1 to 6 during the four years from April 1989. As the vaccinations
were producing too many side effects, their maker announced in September
1991 that it would cease producing them. The medicines were said to be
effective for one year.

      Ministry officials looked into how much of the outdated vaccines were
used after October 1992, the time the ministry's supplies of the drugs
reached the prescribed end of their effectiveness.

      Going through documents of the only 10 prefectures still with
paperwork from the time, the ministry learned 2,070 children had been
injected with the out-of-date vaccines. (Mainichi Shimbun, March 12, 2003)