Japan suspends Pfizer, Sanofi shots after deaths

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Japan has suspended vaccines made by Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis while regulators investigate the deaths of four children last week. The infants had been vaccinated with several childhood shots simultaneously, including Pfizer's meningitis and pneumonia preventive Prevenar and Sanofi's Hemophilius influenza vaccine ActHIB. The government has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday.

"No causal relationship has been established between immunization and these fatalities, but an investigation is under way, which we're fully cooperating with," Sanofi's Victor Carey told Bloomberg. Pfizer declined to comment on the investigation, but emphasized that it "continually monitors all of its medicines and vaccines as safety is our top priority." Sanofi's ActHIB had been administered to three of the four children, while Prevenar was given to all four.

This probe follows last year's investigation of three deaths in the Netherlands, Reuters notes. Health authorities there found no link between Prevenar and the deaths.

Pfizer noted that it has distributed more than 2 million doses of the shot in Japan since last year, and it has been in use in North America and Europe for at least a decade. Sanofi said it has shipped more than 3 million doses of ActHIB in the country since 2008, and more than 200 million doses have been given to children in at least 120 countries.

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