Many people know that other countries have different immunization requirements and recommendations than the United States.
In fact, it is even a popular anti-vaccine myth that we give many more vaccines than most other countries. There actually isn’t all that many differences.
What is very different is how quickly most other countries are to pull vaccines at the first sign of an issue, even when it is isn’t likely to be caused by the vaccine and when the consequences are that people are going to be put at risk of life-threatening vaccine preventable diseases.
We saw this when:
- France suspended the routine vaccination of teens against hepatitis B because of the possible association of the vaccine with multiple sclerosis in 1998 amid “pressure from anti-vaccine groups and reports in the French media have raised concerns about a link between HBV immunisation and new cases or relapses of MS and other demyelinating diseases,” even though “scientific data available do not support a causal association between HBV immunisation and central nervous system diseases, including MS.”
- DTP vaccination was interrupted in Sweden, Japan, UK, The Russian Federation, Ireland, Italy, the former West Germany, and Australia leading to a pertussis incidence that “was 10 to 100 times lower in countries where high vaccine coverage was maintained than in countries where immunisation programs were compromised by anti-vaccine movements.” The United States was one of the countries that did not stop using DTP at the time, at least not until we had the newer, DTaP vaccine. In Japan, where they switched from DTP to DT in 1974 and raised the ages that children be vaccinated, only 10% had been been vaccinated against pertussis by 1976. In 1979, there was a large pertussis outbreak with 41 deaths.
- Japan switched from the combination MMR to single vaccines in 1993 because their MMR vaccine had been linked to aseptic meningitis.
- Some reports say that Sweden and Finland suspended the use of the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine because of its association with narcolepsy, but since the vaccine was for the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic, that seems academic.
- Japan suspended both Hib and Prevnar for a month in 2011 “because of seven deaths of children that were ultimately found to be unrelated to the vaccines.”
- Japan also quickly began investigating the HPV vaccines shortly after they became available in Japan “because of fears of complex regional pain syndrome.”
- Italy temporarily suspended the Fluad flu vaccine after 19 deaths in 2014, but quickly reinstated it after the vaccine was found to be safe.
- Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia temporarily suspended the Agrippal and Fluad flu vaccines in 2012 because “white particles were seen in syringes carrying the vaccines,” even though they were said to be a normal part of the manufacturing process.
What are the consequences of frequently suspending and banning vaccines? It certainly doesn’t improve people’s confidence in vaccines or help keep immunization rates up. And we know what it does to disease rates.
Of course, that is not to say that the United States will never stop or suspend the use of a vaccine. The RotaShield rotavirus vaccine is a good example. It was taken off the market just nine months after being approved because it was associated with intussusception.
And we aren’t using FluMist this flu season.
But in most other situations, vaccines were investigated and found to be safe, all without having to be suspended, leaving kids unprotected and at risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease.
Other countries have sometimes found issues with their vaccines too. Western Australia temporarily suspended FluVax flu shots for children under age 5 years because of an increased rate of fever and febrile seizures in 2010.
Mexico suspended vaccinations after at least two kids died and 29 got sick in Chiapas in 2015 (bacterial contamination of vaccine vials). But it wasn’t all vaccines in the whole country as many reported. It was only a few lots in that part of the country, and vaccines were quickly restarted once they were found to be safe.
It should also be noted that many of these vaccines were never used in the United States, including the brand of MMR that was used in Japan and the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine.
Even FluVax was not used in the United States for young children. In 2010, Afluria, which is essentially the same vaccine, was only recommended for children who were at least 9-years-old.
For More Information:
- Autism rises despite MMR ban in Japan
- Updated – Japan and HPV vaccine – debunking myths
- A Review of Factors Affecting Vaccine Preventable Disease in Japan
- Epidemiological study of severe febrile reactions in young children in Western Australia caused by a 2010 trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine
- ACIP Recommendation for Use of CSL Influenza Vaccine
- Narcolepsy Following Pandemrix Influenza Vaccination in Europe
- Statement on narcolepsy and vaccination
- Pandemrix and Narcolepsy
- No, “vaccine reactions” didn’t kill several children in Mexico
- Vaccination Deaths in Mexico and Syria