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Canadian MMR Vaccine Recall Lifted

Mar 4, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP A review of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccines by Canadian health officials has found no link between the vaccines and cases of anaphylaxis.  Several batches of MMR vaccine were recalled in Canada late last year after six people fell ill in the midst of a vaccination campaign in Alberta.  Health Canada advised against the use of the three lots of MMR vaccine sold by MerckFrosst Canada, while it investigated  the suspected cases of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction characterized by swelling and difficulty breathing.  All six cases involved adults aged 20 to 30 with a history of allergy; all fully recovered.

Health Canada has completed its review of MerckFrosst’s reports pertaining to a lot (1529U) of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine potentially associated with the six cases of suspected anaphylaxis in young adults in Alberta during November and December 2007.  The review found no link between MMR vaccine lot and the adverse events in Alberta.

Based on this information, suspension of this lot (1529U) and two other associated lots (1528U and 1680U) is lifted and the medications are available for use by provinces and territories to vaccinate both adults and children requiring MMR immunization.  On December 11, 2007 Health Canada asked provincial and territorial health authorities and all other Canadian vaccine providers not to use these lots of the MMR-II vaccine sold by MerckFrosst Canada and also requested that MerckFrosst Canada provide a written report on any manufacturing or safety problems associated with Lot 1529U and its bulk components.  Although these lots of the MMR vaccine have been lifted, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada continue to monitor the safety of the MMR II vaccine and will inform Canadians if any new safety information arises.  The agencies will also continue to examine all potential causes for the reported unusual frequency of anaphylaxis and will advise on any possible preventive action, if it is deemed ne

The vaccine is normally administered to children twice in their second year of life; however, due to last year’s mumps outbreaks across Canada, a catch-up campaign was under way in Alberta, primarily for young adults in post-secondary schools.  A national advisory committee urged all Canadians up to about age 40 to receive two doses of the vaccine.  Mumps can cause sterility, meningitis, and deafness.  Over 500 million doses of MMR-II have been distributed worldwide since 1978 and MMR-II is on the regular childhood and baby vaccination schedule in Canada.  Canadians receiving MMR II vaccinations for themselves or their children should consult with their physician if they have any questions or concerns.  Any serious or unexpected adverse reactions in patients receiving the MMR II vaccine should be reported to their health care practitioner.

At the same time the MMR recall was instituted, Merck & Co. Inc. also recalled about 1.2 million doses of vaccines—11 lots of PedvaxHIB vaccine and two lots of Comvax vaccine—when quality control checks revealed that production equipment might not have been properly sterilized.  The vaccines involved protect against Hib—or Haemophilus influenzae type b—disease and other conditions; Comvax also prevents hepatitis B.

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