In October 1998, the Minister of Health in France suspended school-based hepatitis B vaccination programs after repeated reports of the development of autoimmune and neurological disorders after hepatitis B vaccination. The action came following reports in the medical literature as well as lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers and the French government. Hepatitis B vaccine has never been required for school entry in France but the schools previously offered the vaccine to students who wanted it.
According to a July 31, 1998 issue of Science, an American scientific journal, French attorneys representing 15,000 French citizens have filed a lawsuit against the French government “accusing it of understating the vaccine’s risks and exaggerating the benefits for the average person.” One French physician has reportedly collected data on more than 600 people suffering from serious immune and neurological dysfunction following hepatitis B vaccination, many with symptoms resembling multiple sclerosis.
Litigation by hepatitis B vaccine victims and citizens seeking informed consent to vaccination is being reinforced by data from France released at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, held November 8-12, 1998 in San Diego, California linking hepatitis B vaccine to the development of autoimmune rheumatoid disease such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The French data confirms a 1998 Canadian study published in The Journal of Rheumatology (1998: 25:1687-93) by Pope et al discussing evidence that recombinant hepatitis B vaccine may trigger the development of rheumatoid arthritis in genetically susceptible individuals.