Japan halts vaccines after four children die: Are U.S. kids at risk?

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(CBS/AP) TOKYO - Parents worried about the safety of childhood vaccines got a jolt Monday after news broke that Japan had stopped using vaccines from two drugmakers while it investigates the deaths of four children who were inoculated, the health ministry said Monday.

The decision to halt the use of vaccines against pneumonia, some types of meningitis, and other infections was made Saturday. The government is hearing from experts at a meeting Tuesday, the health ministry said.

In the U.S, there have been no indications of a problem with the vaccines, which are made by Pfizer and Sanofi, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CBS News. "Nothing has surfaced in our review that sets off any kinds of bells," Tom Skinner said, adding that the agency was monitoring the situation carefully.

Calls to the FDA went unanswered by press time.

The four children, from under six months to 2 years old, died between March 2 and March 4. The deaths occurred within three days after the vaccines were administered, the ministry said.

The vaccination began in Japan about a year to two years ago. The vaccines have been administered to 1 million to 1.5 million children, according to the ministry.

Pfizer in Japan said the company was cooperating with the investigation on the Prevenar vaccine. The U.S. has been using Prevenar for about 10 years, the company said.

Sanofi-Aventis in Japan said its ActHIB vaccine was approved in France in 1992, and a year later in the U.S.

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