Canada halts use of mumps vaccine, launches probe

Wed Dec 12, 2007 6:18pm EST
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By Carla Tonelli

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada suspended use of three batches of a mumps vaccine on Wednesday after five people fell ill in the midst of a vaccination campaign in the western province of Alberta.

Health Canada advised against the use of the three lots of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine sold by MerckFrosst Canada, while it investigates five suspected cases of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction characterized by swelling and difficulty breathing.

All five cases involved adults aged 20 to 30 in Alberta who had a previous history of allergy. All have fully recovered.

Canadian officials are now trying to determine if the vaccine may be having the same adverse reaction elsewhere.

A joint investigation by Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Alberta is being carried out in conjunction with distributor MerckFrosst Canada. It is soliciting reports of adverse effects from other countries that use the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine MMR-II.

Parent Merck & Co Inc markets the vaccine in the European Union, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Argentina, Russia, the United States, and elsewhere.

"Because all of our vaccine producers now are all global, then we also reach out globally to determine whether or not there are any other adverse events or clusters of adverse events that people are seeing elsewhere related to this product, or related to any of these lots that may be gone elsewhere," said Dr. Arlene King, a director with the Public Health Agency.

King said Canadian officials would also be contacting regulatory authorities in other countries.   Continued...