Japan scolded for lag in vaccinations

Japan's ban on the combination vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) in routine immunizations, a cumbersome bureaucracy, and a lack of vaccine coverage in the country's healthcare program are putting the nation at risk, various officials and researchers claim. The MMR vaccine was controversially banned in 1993, and officials pointed out in a 2014 European Business Council report that "protection by vaccines remains insufficient" in the country. The report's lead author, Shunjiro Sugimoto, said the combination vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis had only recently been approved for use in Japan and that the country was far behind Europe in offering protection for children. He also said vaccines for mumps and hepatitis B are not part of the national immunization program. Health official Jun Honda said in a Japan Today report that the lack of combination vaccines was an "inconvenience" and added that the complete lack of other vaccines was "a public health issue." According to the report, Honda and many other experts say that Japan's "sluggish bureaucracy is needlessly putting lives at risk" because the country's health ministry "takes a lot of time to make decisions and to put these vaccines into national vaccine programs." Japan's Health Ministry said in the report that it "cannot deny" its decisions take time, but said it was looking out for public safety. The report also said experts are worried about government decisions to pull some vaccines from the market as it did when it withdrew the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for cervical cancer in girls in 2013. Report