Another missed chance to lead

Tokyo

Recent events such as the Tokyo Electric Power Co. debacle have further eroded what little trust the public had in the government. In a similar vein, the policies regarding immunizations for this nation’s children show that the health ministry is more concerned with protecting themselves rather than the most vulnerable among us.

Ten or more years behind the rest of the developed world, Japan has finally decided to switch from the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) to the inactivated injection (IPV), with the recent approval of Sanofi Pasteur’s version of IPV. In rare cases, OPV can cause the very disease it is meant to prevent, resulting in vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis.

The newly approved IPV will be available in September, but through the government’s unfounded insistence on stricter product standards, the manufacturer has had to set up a separate production line for Japan.

This has led to an increase in the costs with the final price being three to four times that of a practitioner like myself importing the non-Japan-line product directly. Most of these costs will be shouldered by local municipalities.

I am not one to side with pharmaceutical companies, but given the circumstances, I believe Sanofi has priced this vaccine reasonably. The government is now asking for a price reduction. While I admire its gall for doing this, it is the government that should pay the price for decades of complacency and lack of leadership or vision.

The introduction of IPV into Japan was the perfect opportunity for the government to set forth a clear immunization policy, but it failed to seize it.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

joe kurosu, m.d.