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The rate of pregnant women not immune to rubella, which can cause serious birth defects, has tripled since the government abolished mandatory immunization for junior high school girls in 1995, according to a study released Monday by a medical association.

The Japan Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists study shows 16 percent of girls 19 or under who were in junior high school when the program was abolished due to side effects did not have the rubella antibody. In contrast, only 5 percent of those 20 or over, who were covered by the regime, lacked it.

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