Meningococcal Disease Continues to Abate
Fri, 05 Nov 2004
Press Release: Beyond Alternative Solutions Contact: Ron Law, Independent Risk & Policy Analyst
"The latest figures released by the Ministry of Health yesterday show that, despite denials by the Minister of Health, the meningococcal disease epidemic continues to abate," says independent risk & policy analyst Ron Law.
12-month rolling totals continue to decline significantly for both cases and deaths before even 1% of the target vaccination group have received their third dose of the MeNZB vaccine.
A person under 20 years old is now more than 80 times likely to die in a road crash than from the MeNZB-type meningococcal disease.
"Meningococcal disease is at a ten year low, and deaths are at a thirteen year low," says Ron Law. "If these were road accident statistics the government would be crowing; the fact that the minister responsible for MeNZB vaccination experiment is denying the facts is a total mystery and defies any rational analysis of the facts."
To the end of October 2004 there have only been 6 deaths due to meningococcal disease of all types and all age groups; only 4 deaths have occurred in under twenty year olds, the target group for the meningococcal MeNZB vaccine.
"It is scientific clap-trap for the Minister of Health to be denying that the epidemic is abating," says Ron Law. "It is also unethical pseudo-science to be using total notified cases of meningococcal disease to justify a type-specific experimental vaccine."
In 2003, whilst 71.4% of cases that were actually typed were of the MeNZB strain, less than 50% of all cases were confirmed as MeNZB-type, and only 38% of deaths (5/13) were caused by the MeNZB strain.
Applying this to 2004 data suggests that there will be no more than 2 deaths in under twenty year olds due to the MeNZB strain of Neisseria Meningitidis.
"If 80% of the target group are vaccinated, and the vaccine has the same efficacy as in Norway (57%) then the $250 million MeNZB vaccination experiment is a very expensive way of saving, maybe, one or two lives," says Ron Law.
Further analysis of data provided under the Official Information Act reveals that less than 50% of notified cases have actually been confirmed as MeNZB type; in the Auckland region the figure is barely a third of all cases.
The Auckland region accounts for 59% of un-typed cases of meningococcal disease, but only 35% of typed cases.
This suggests strongly that there have been many cases falsely notified as meningococcal disease, especially in the Auckland region. There is either a meningococcal-like illness in the Auckland region that is getting labelled as meningococcal disease or else Auckland doctors are diagnosing meningococcal disease presumptively, that is, not based on sound clinical judgement. [See Classification of Meningococcal Disease in New Zealand, Typed/Untyped 1997-2004 -- available on request]
Different strands of meningococcal disease
There are at least 13 serogroups of meningococcal disease known. Of these, four serogroups, Groups B, C, W-135, and Y, are of importance in the New Zealand with a new serogroup, Z, being identified in 2003.
There are many sub-types within each group. Whilst MeNZB sub-type is the predominant strain of those identified, in the Auckland region more cases have not been able to be confirmed by typing that have been confirmed as MeNZB-type. [See Meningococcal Disease Types in New Zealand, 1997-2004. -- available on request]
There are serious problems with the statistics and rationale being used by the Ministry of Health to justify a 250 million experiment using an untested drug given unconditional approval by the Minister of Health one day after an "independent" expert advisory committee held a teleconference call that was so hurriedly arranged that three key members could not be contacted, considered data that perhaps the majority of the committee had not seen, who noted significant concerns about manufacturing and quality data, and had to rely on a verbal report by one of the key drivers of the meningococcal vaccine strategy.
"Is there a journalist out there game enough to ask the hard questions; and even more to the point, is there an editor out there even gamer enough to publish the answers?" asks Ron Law.