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Kenta Morioka, 4, died last year from suffocation caused by a bacterial infection. But the vaccine that could have saved his life, in use for 16 years and offered in 120 countries, wasn’t available in Japan.

The world’s second-largest economy only began vaccinating infants against haemophilus influenzae type b, or Hib — one of the most common causes of meningitis — in December. The shot, made by a unit of Sanofi-Aventis SA, didn’t get Japanese approval until 2007. And vaccines against other deadly bacteria, including meningococcal and pneumococcal infections, have still not been approved for infants here.

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