Hib Vaccine Recall (2007) Summary

In 2007, Merck & Company, Inc. voluntarily recalled 1.2 million doses of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccines due to concerns about potential contamination with bacteria called B. cereus. The recall was a precaution, and after careful review, no evidence of B. cereus infection was found in recipients of recalled Hib vaccines.

About the Hib Vaccine Recall and Safety Summary

teacher with toddlers

In 2010, CDC published a report summarizing the findings of a safety assessment after the 2007 Hib vaccine recall. The report, Summary of Safety Assessment of Recalled Haemophilus influenzae type be (Hib) conjugate vaccines–United States, 2007-2008,  was a collaborative effort involving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC vaccine and laboratory experts.

In response to concerns about potential contamination, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the Epidemic Information Exchange (Epi-X) were used to rapidly conduct post-recall safety surveillance for vaccine associated B cereus infections. Based on a review of reports to VAERS and Epi-X, this assessment found no evidence of B. cereus infection in recipients of recalled Hib vaccines.

The report found:

  • lab scientist working with test tubes

    No evidence of B. cereus infection was found in people who received recalled Hib vaccines.

  • Routine testing identified B. cereus in the vaccine manufacturing process equipment, but not in individual vaccine lots.
  • B. cereus can cause food poisoning, and can rarely cause serious non-gastrointestinal infections in persons with compromised immune systems resulting in sepsis, endocarditis, meningitis, pneumonia, osteomeylitis, or wound infections.
  • VAERS received 75 reports involving recalled Hib vaccines from April 2007 through February 2008. Experts searched the VAERS database for “Bacillus” or “cereus”  to identify potential reports of infection. The reports were analyzed by seriousness and adverse event patterns. There were 5 reports of death. Before the recall, no B. cereus infection that occurred after vaccination had been reported to VAERS.
  • A CDC medical officer reviewed medical records of all serious reports involving recalled Hib vaccines. For each death report, autopsy results, in conjunction with state health departments, local medical examiners, and CDC’s Infectious Disease Pathology Branch, sought evidence of B. cereus infections. Tissue specimens were obtained for 4 or the 5 deaths; none of these specimens revealed evidence of B. cereus infection.
  • In December 2007, CDC’s Epi-X was used to collect information from among thousands of public health professionals and infectious disease specialists for vaccine-associated B. cereus infection. One report of vaccine-associated B. cereus infection was found in a child who received a non-recalled Hib vaccine from the same manufacturer. The patient’s B. cereus isolate did not have the same genotype (“fingerprints”) as the B. cereus isolated from the manufacturing equipment.