Japan suspends two vaccines after childhood deaths

Childhood vaccines that protect against pneumococcal infections and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis were suspended in Japan after a possible association with four childhood deaths in the country. Health officials are currently investigating whether a causal link exists.

The Department of Health in Hong Kong emphasized that it has not received reports of any adverse events associated with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in question (Prevnar, Wyeth), but is advising health care providers of the situation and encouraging vigilance.

“The [Department of Health] is aware of the news and is concerned, especially because pneumococcal vaccination is in Hong Kong's childhood immunization program since 2009,” a spokesperson from the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's Department of Health said in a press release.

“We will be in touch with our Japanese counterpart for details. The Department of Health has already got in contact with Pfizer which will clarify the local stock situation of its two pneumococcal vaccines and their origins, besides liaising with its head office for further information on the Japanese situation. For clarification, Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccination (ActHIB, Sanofi-Pasteur) is not in Hong Kong's childhood immunization program,” the spokesperson said.

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine recipients who feel unwell should contact their health care provider, the Department of Health advised.

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