4 deaths in Japan not tied to shots: panel

No direct link found between two vaccines against meningitis and pneumonia and the deaths of four children in Japan, a panel says.
Japan temporarily suspended use of two vaccines during the investigation. ((iStock))

There's no direct link between two vaccines that help prevent meningitis and pneumonia and the deaths of four children in Japan, a  panel of medical experts says.

The Japanese panelists will continue to do more checks, Kyodo news agency reported Tuesday.

The two vaccines are Pfizer's Prevnar 7 and Sanofi-Aventis's ActHib, which protect against bacterial infections that can lead to meningitis and pneumonia.

Japan temporarily suspended use of the vaccines during the investigation. The experts' findings mean Japan will likely return to using the vaccines, Dow Jones reported.

The four children, from under six months to two years old, died between March 2 and March 4. The vaccines are being investigated because the deaths occurred soon after the children received the shots, ranging from the same day to three days after, Japan's health ministry said.

In addition to the four deaths in March, another infant died in November after receiving his second shot of the ActHib vaccine, Australian Associated Press said.

Vaccines not distributed in Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada are aware that Japanese authorities have temporarily suspended the use of the vaccines Prevnar (Pfizer) and ACT-Hib (Sanofi-Aventis).

The lots of Prevnar and ACT-Hib were not distributed in Canada, Health Canada said in an email to CBC News. There have been no reports of any similar adverse events in Canada, the department said.

After a vaccine is approved for use, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada conduct ongoing safety monitoring. If a safety concern is identified then "immediate and appropriate action is taken," the regulator said.

Immunization is an important and successful public health measure that effectively prevents disease, improves the health status of Canadians and reduces pressures on the care system, Health Canada noted.

Prevnar 13, a different version, is the only one approved and available for distribution in Canada, Pfizer Canada said.

Sanofi Pasteur's Hib vaccine was licensed in Canada in 1992. The company said it has an excellent safety profile.

With files from The Associated Press