Vaccines don’t affect infant mortality rates as much as you would expect, because there are many other things that kill infants besides vaccine-preventable diseases. Things like birth defects, prematurity, injuries and complications during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, that gives anti-vaccine folks lots of opportunities to misuse statistics about infant mortality rates.
Does Japan have the Lowest Infant Mortality Rate Following a Ban on Mandatory Vaccinations?
The latest propaganda about vaccines and infant mortality rates relates to Japan.
“It may come as no surprise to many that the Japanese Government banned a number of vaccines that are currently mandatory in the United States and has strict regulations in place for other Big Pharma drugs and vaccines in general.”
Jay Greenberg on Anti-Vaccine Japan Has World’s Lowest Child Death Rate, Highest Life Expectancy
Japan never banned any vaccines.
Japan is not anti-vaccine. Although their immunization schedule is certainly a lot more complicated than ours, they give many of the same vaccines as every other developed country.
“Following a record number of children developing adverse reactions, including meningitis, loss of limbs, and even sudden death, the Japanese government banned the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine from its vaccination program, despite facing serious opposition from Big Pharma.”
Was the MMR vaccine banned in Japan?
The MMR vaccine was introduced in Japan in 1989, and four years later, the government withdrew its recommendation for the vaccine.
Why? Reports of aseptic meningitis. This was likely due to the Urabe strain of the mumps component in their MMR vaccine, which was not used in the United States.
“The data up to now have revealed low rates of aseptic meningitis and no cases of virologically proven meningitis following the use of Jeryl–Lynn and RIT 4385 strains.”
WHO on Safety of mumps vaccine strains
They didn’t ban the vaccine or vaccination though.
They returned to giving children separate measles, rubella, and mumps (optional) vaccines. Tragically, because many kids didn’t get vaccinated against mumps, the rate of aseptic meningitis from people who actually got mumps was 25 times higher than the rate from the MMR vaccine!
“Due directly to these gaps in ‘herd’ immunization resulting from politicized transitions in vaccination policy by the government, there were outbreaks of rubella with 17,050 cases reported between the years of 2012 and 2014, and 45 cases of congenital rubella syndrome reported to the National Epidemiological Surveillance of Infectious Diseases from week 1, 2012 to week 40, 2014.”
Yusuke Tanaka on History repeats itself in Japan: Failure to learn from rubella epidemic leads to failure to provide the HPV vaccine
The switch over also lead to outbreaks of rubella and increased cases of congenital rubella syndrome.
That’s no surprise to those who remember what happened in 1975, when routine pertussis vaccinations were halted in Japan following the deaths of two children. That eventually lead to epidemic cases of whooping cough in the country and at least 41 deaths in children (in 1979) before the vaccine was restarted.
Unfortunately, once they moved to DTaP vaccines, they started to see an increase in allergic reactions after kids got their MMR vaccine. Why? Their version of the DTaP vaccine contained poorly hydrolyzed bovine gelatin, which likely sensitized infants, who then developed an allergic reaction after getting an MMR vaccine with gelatin. While gelatin was removed from their DTaP vaccines, these extra side effects likely scared some folks in Japan.
Japan’s Vaccine Problem
Japan has more vaccine-preventable diseases than many other industrial countries.
Is it because Japan is anti-vaccine?
Of course not.
By impulsively halting and withdrawing vaccines, the Japanese government has done a good job of scaring folks though. They have also been very slow to introduce new vaccines, although they are catching up, as hepatitis, B, rotavirus, Hib, pneumococcal, meningococcal, HPV, and the chicken pox vaccine are all now available in Japan.
Have there been any benefits?
They might have lower infant mortality rates, but that has nothing to do with vaccines.
There is no correlation between the number of vaccines that a country gives and their infant mortality rate.
Just look at the immunization schedules in Finland, Portugal, and other countries.
What about autism?
Rates of autism have increased in Japan, just as they have in other countries. So much for the idea that the MMR vaccine is associated with autism, right?
With higher rates of vaccine-preventable disease and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases, especially right after they impulsively halt a vaccine, Japan’s vaccine history simply demonstrates that vaccines work and that they are still very necessary.
One thing is true though. Japan’s infant mortality rate has been dropping, but then so has the infant mortality rate in almost all other countries, including the United States, which is at record low levels.
It certainly isn’t true that Japan’s infant mortality rate started to drop following a ban on mandatory vaccinations. How do we know that? Like many other countries, Japan has never had mandatory vaccinations. And not surprisingly, their infant mortality rate has continued to drop as they have added more vaccines and improved their immunization rates.
More on Vaccines and Infant Mortality Rates
- Vaccination Schedule Recommended by the Japan Pediatric Society
- Routine/Voluntary Immunization Schedule in Japan (October 1, 2016)
- Japan’s backward vaccination policy
- Vaccines and infant mortality rates: A false relationship promoted by the anti-vaccine movement
- Japan and HPV vaccine – debunking myths
- International Comparisons of Infant Mortality and Related Factors: United States and Europe, 2010
- Study – No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study.
- Japanese study is more evidence that MMR does not cause autism
- Study – History repeats itself in Japan: Failure to learn from rubella epidemic leads to failure to provide the HPV vaccine
- Study – Acellular pertussis vaccines in Japan: past, present and future.
- Study – A comparative study of the incidence of aseptic meningitis in symptomatic natural mumps patients and monovalent mumps vaccine recipients in Japan.
- Study – Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story.
- Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births)
- WHO – Mumps Vaccines
- WHO – Safety of mumps vaccine strains
- Study – Mumps vaccine virus strains and aseptic meningitis.
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