Nine died after getting flu shots in ’03

Nine people died after receiving influenza vaccinations in Japan in fiscal 2003, government officials said Thursday.

Around 14.6 million flu vaccines were administered in Japan in fiscal 2003, up from 10.4 million a year earlier, following the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in the first half of last year, according to officials of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Although no specific relationship has been confirmed between the deaths and the vaccination, the ministry has created a panel of experts to investigate the possible side effects of the vaccine and publish an annual report on the matter, they said.

The ministry began recording the deaths of flu-vaccinated people in fiscal 2000. It said three died in fiscal 2000, four in fiscal 2001 and five in fiscal 2002.

Vaccine harms people

It has been confirmed that 12 people have suffered brain and spinal inflammation over the past decade after being vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis, health ministry sources said Thursday.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to ask vaccine makers to employ a safer production method; some researchers say the illness — acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) — originates from mouse brain tissue used to cultivate the virus.

The disease causes acute inflammation in parts of the brain and spinal cord, generating symptoms such as headaches and impaired consciousness. Some of the vaccinated people suffered aftereffects such as limb paralysis and disruption to their sense of touch, the sources said.

Of the 12, four were children aged 3 to 15 who developed the symptoms after being vaccinated last year.