Dr. Paul Offit Speaks: Japanese “Foolish” to take Precaution after Vaccine Deaths
Posted Mar 01 2011 12:00am
Breaking news this morning: Japanese vaccine recalled for contamination : Sanofi Pasteur and partner Daiichi Sankyo have decided to voluntarily recall 13 lots of a paediatric vaccine in Japan, where its use is currently suspended. The affected lots of ActHIB, which are manufactured and marketed by Sanofi and distributed by Daiichi Sankyo in Japan for haemophilus influenza type b, are being recalled due to an investigation which confirmed two cases of contamination inside syringes of diluent used to reconstitute the vaccine...
By J.B. Handley
Is this Paul Offit’s Pharma-Shill moment? It’s nice to have the world see the audacity the Merck-funded Paul Offit often shows when discussing anything to do with vaccines.
First, a quick chronological recap of the Japanese vaccine tragedy:
News services around the world report that Japan has suspended the use of 2 vaccines after four children died subsequent to receiving one or both vaccines. From the Wall Street Journal:
“The deaths of four children in Japan prompted the government there to halt use of the vaccines Prevnar and ActHIB and caused some international health authorities to examine whether the widely used shots cause serious side effects.”
Forbes writer Matthew Herper publishes a blog post with the reassuring title, “Don’t Be Frightened By Japan’s Vaccine Scare” and quotes our favorite Darth Vader-in-Chief, Paulie Profit, with some all-time gems:
“I think the Japanese Ministry of Health was foolish to suspend the HIB and pneumococcal programs,” says Paul Offit, a researcher at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia who co-invented a Merck vaccine used to combat rotavirus. “It was the wrong thing to do.”
In all likelihood, Offit says, the four deaths are likely to be sudden infant death syndrome or another cause; he says two of the children had serious underlying health conditions. Any time a large number of people are given a vaccine, some of them will get sick and die just by chance…
Offit profited from the creation of the rotavirus vaccine, but does not get ongoing money from vaccine manufacturers for speaking, consulting, research, or as royalties.
A Japanese panel clears the vaccines of causation, while upping the number of dead children to five. From Dow Jones news wire:
“A panel of Japanese medical experts expressed the opinion Tuesday that the deaths of five children over the past two months weren't connected to pediatric vaccines administered just before they died.”
“The panel said the deaths were not connected to the vaccines, and that there was nothing wrong with the lots of vaccines.”
Phew, we can all start vaccinatin’ again, that was a close one.
Japan reports a sixth death of a Japanese child aged 6 months to one year after vaccination. From the Vancouver Sun:
“Japan's health ministry on Thursday reported the death of a sixth infant who recently received vaccinations made by Pfizer or Sanofi-Aventis that have been suspended since last week.”
Sanofi and its Japanese subsidiary announce they are recalling 200,000 vaccines from Japan. From the Wall Street Journal:
Sanofi-Aventis SA, maker of the ActHIB vaccine caught up in the suspension, now says it’s recalling 200,000 doses distributed in Japan – but not because of the investigation.
Sanofi took action after finding that two syringes used to dispense the vaccine contained an undetermined “foreign matter,” a spokeswoman tells the Health Blog. The move is precautionary only, and the recalled ActHIB vaccine doses don’t present a safety risk, she says.
The ActHIB vaccine is administered using syringes — which contain a solution that renders the powdered vaccine ready for injection – in Japan, but not in the U.S.
Sanofi is still investigating, but believes the syringes, made in 2009, were contaminated somewhere during the manufacturing process.
* * *
Japan is having a rough week, to put it mildly. Having spent most of my childhood living in Tokyo, my heart and thoughts genuinely go out to the Japanese people. There is no population more prepared or more resilient to rebuild what has been lost.
As a hometown boy, I thought I’d check some of the newspapers I used to read as a kid in Japan, and see how they reported the news. Are there any different takes on what is going on? Here’s a quote from The Japan Times:
“Japan, known for being notoriously slow to accept new vaccines, approved the Hib vaccine in 2007, 20 years after the United States did so. Approval for the streptococcus pneumonia vaccine came in 2009, compared with 2000 in the U.S.
An increasing number of people are believed to be receiving these vaccines because of a subsidy program launched last November in which the government agrees to shoulder half the cost of vaccination if municipal governments organize and subsidize vaccination programs.”
20 years before they adopted the shot? A subsidy program to induce compliance? Six dead kids? And, now, and acknowledged contamination issue?