175,000 children given excessive dose of hepatitis vaccine

January 22, 1998

PARIS - AP World News via Individual Inc. : French health workers injected 175,000 students with an excessive dose of a Hepatitis B vaccine in 1995 that sickened some children, and their parents were never alerted, French media reported Wednesday.

- The Health Ministry declined immediate comment on the report but scheduled a news conference later Wednesday.

If confirmed, the error and coverup would be another blow to a health system shaken by scandals over hormones and AIDS-tainted blood.

- Days after the Hepatitis B inoculations in November 1995, a number of children suffered adverse effects including vomiting, blacking out, stomach aches and headaches, the daily Le Parisien reported.

- The report didn't say how many children were affected. A group of other victims of the vaccine, calling themselves Revahb, tracked no serious effects among the children but said 600 people had suffered adverse effects from it and were suing the government, Le Parisien said. - Health officials recalled the vaccine, a brand called Hb vax 10 distributed only in the Paris region, and determined it was too strong for the 11-year-old children who received it.

- Officials decided to stop injecting the children with the vaccine, but the Ministry of National Education never informed the parents of the vaccinated children, Le Parisien said.

- The France's national health system suffered its worst scandal in 1985 when 1,300 blood transfusion recipients were contaminated with the AIDS virus. More than 500 people have died.

- The probe went as high up as former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius and two of his Cabinet ministers, though only four lower-level health officials have been convicted.

- Investigators found that the authorities were waiting to develop new French technology for detecting the AIDS virus in blood, despite the existence of a U.S. method.

- Authorities are also under investigation for distributing potentially tainted growth hormones that may have killed up to 40 children.

- The hormones, given to more than 1,000 children with dwarfism in 1985, were potentially contaminated with organisms causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The crippling neurological disorder _ possibly linked to mad cow disease _ can lie dormant for years and has no known cure.