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Why the Japanese banned the MMR vaccine?


The MMR vaccine is no longer in use in Japan. Worries regarding the effect of the vaccine on the human health were the reason why Japan stopped giving this vaccine in 1992.

There were numerous cases of children who had developed non-viral meningitis and other health issues after receiving the vaccine in the early nineties.

Some children faced severe consequences, such as permanent handicaps that include loss of hearing, blindness and loss of control of limbs. There were even some cases with fatal outcome.

Even though there was an initiative in 1999 to put the vaccine back to use, the ban remained. Instead of MMR vaccine, Japan continued giving individual vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella.

The British Department of Health explained that the MMR vaccines used in Japan included a problematic strain of mumps vaccine, which is why the UK stopped using it.

The problems with MMR became obvious immediately after its introduction in April 1989. Back then, vaccination was not a matter of choice. Whoever decided not to vaccinate his child, had to pay an amercement.

Experts monitored the situation during the three-month period and got to the conclusion that one in every 900 children was experiencing problems. This was a very disturbing discovery, because it was expected that only one child in every 100,000 to 200,000 would encounter side effects.

Even though the ministry switched to another MMR vaccine in October 1991, the results were not encouraging. One child in 1,755 children was affected.

Further testing of the spinal fluid of 125 children showed that there was one case where the vaccine had reached the child’s nervous system.

The public strongly reacted to the problems with the vaccine, which is why the vaccine against measles or rubella stopped being compulsory in 1993.

The cost of individual vaccines is double the cost of MMR, but as Dr Hiroki Nakatani, director of the Infectious Disease Division at Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare noticed, that doesn’t matter, because the health of the children is what everyone has to think about.

However, the incidents with MMR vaccine left some consequences. Parents became distrustful and many of them refused to vaccinate their children. This led to measles outbreaks, which took 94 lives during the last five years.

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