MMR in Japan

Why Japan stopped using MMR

Friday, 8 February, 2002, 06:49 GMT

By the BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo

Japan's Health Ministry says the withdrawal of the MMR vaccine for children did not cause an increase in deaths from measles.

It followed UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments this week in which he cited Japan as an example of the dangers of not having the combined vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

There is a huge controversy in the UK, with thousands of parents refusing to let their child have the combined MMR injection over fears that it has links to autism and bowel disorders.

But the medical establishment says such a link does not exist, and that the MMR vaccine is far more effective than having separate injections.

Measles epidemics

Japan stopped using MMR because it was linked to outbreaks of non-viral meningitis and other damaging side-effects. Doctors say there were problems with the vaccine which was of a different type to that used in the UK.

They stopped using the MMR vaccine in 1993 and reverted to three separate injections for measles, mumps and rubella.

Japan's Health Ministry said more than 100 people died from measles over the next six years, while there were no deaths in the UK.

But a spokesman said even more had died from the disease during the period when MMR was being used.

He said the withdrawal of the triple vaccine had had no impact.

Deadly epidemics of measles are far more common in Japan than the UK. The ministry says that is because children are often vaccinated much later.

Japanese officials say they have no record of a connection between MMR and autism.