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Meningococcal Vaccine May Increase Risk

22 November 2004

New Meningococcal Vaccine May Increase Risk to Children

"Fully vaccinated children could still succumb to meningococcal disease despite being fully vaccinated" was a scenario that The Immunisation Awareness Society warned of at the start of the Ministry of Health meningococcal B vaccination campaign back in July of this year.

“IAS expressed considerable concerns about potential complacency regarding the symptoms of meningococcal disease, and further, warned that the vaccine was not going to be 100% effective nor would it protect against other strains of the disease,” the Society said on Monday after an Auckland boy was admitted to hospital with the disease. This vaccine will not stop children and adults from getting meningococcal disease and parents must still be vigilant over symptoms that, early on, can be confused with other illnesses. Parents must also consider what else they can do to help keep their children healthy rather than relying on the vaccine. These efforts include preventing exposure to tobacco smoke and ensuring a healthy diet that will prevent iron anaemia.

The Immunisation Awareness Society also takes issue with statements that three quarters of the cases of the disease were the meningococcal strain targeted by the new vaccine. Data from Environmental Science and Research shows that less than 40 percent of the cases in Auckland have been confirmed as the unique New Zealand B group strain which children are now being vaccinated against . That means that more than 60% of cases MAY not be prevented by the vaccine even if the vaccine works perfectly for everyone.

Dr O'Halloran, when asked if removing one strain, could lead to the "invasion" of another, replied that that would not be the case. Such a statement defies not only logic, and medical literature, but also the evidence New Zealanders have before their own eyes. In 1987, a Meningitis A vaccine was used, supposedly, to stop an epidemic. Not long after that, Haemophilus was declared another problem, and babies were offered that vaccine. Not long after that, newspapers started to report a significant rise in meningitis, which the Ministry of Health states is principally Type B, but which ESR evidence shows, is across all types.

Contrary to Dr O'Hallahan’s assertions that “being immunised against the B strain did not weaken resistance to other strains, and could give better protection against other strains”, historical scientific evidence exists that immunity against specific meningococcal pathogens can weaken general immunity against all other strains. Many children and young people in the Auckland area have had the Hib vaccine, meningitis A vaccine, and now a meningitis B vaccine, and if the theory that one vaccine can protect against other types is correct, then the current epidemic of meningitis should be far less in Auckland than anywhere else in the country.

So long as economic and nutritional poverty continue, no vaccine will solve the issue of vulnerability to any infection, bacterial or viral. All that any vaccine will do, is leave vulnerable people open to infection from other types of meningitis. The very same situation has occurred in the United Kingdom (see below) after the use of the Meningitis C vaccine where the meningitis disease and death rate actually rose, because parents became complacent about the fact that the use of a specific vaccine does not eliminate the bedrock vulnerabilities that result in "that" child being susceptible to any meningitis disease in the first place.

Research undertaken in the 1940s by Dr Lewis Thomas showed that immunising rabbits against a specific meningococcal pathogen destroyed their powerful natural immunity against meningococcal bacteria. He wrote in his book The Youngest Science: notes of a medicine watcher (1984) that “an immunized animal could lose, as the result of being immunised, its own natural defense.”

"Reflecting on Lewis Thomas’s work, and the trends in Auckland over the last 20 years, IAS considers that the Ministry of Health’s past and present vaccination campaigns may, in fact, be making our children more vulnerable to other meningococcal bacteria,” says IAS spokesperson, Sue Claridge.

"One has to ask why it is that New Zealand now has one of the highest rates of any type of meningitis in the developed world. It wouldn't be for lack of meningitis vaccines, since other countries that don't use them all, do not have the problems that New Zealand does."

The strain of meningococcal bacteria that is targeted by the current vaccine has a lower fatality rate than the other strains, and, if this vaccine changes the bacterial types being carried in the community, we may see more deaths in the future, not fewer, particularly as nothing is being done about what causes susceptibility to disease in the first place.

“We emphasise to parents the importance of a healthy diet, eliminating exposure to tobacco smoke, vigilance regarding symptoms, to not use any over the counter medications without medical advice, and to make an informed decision about this vaccine, weighing up all the risks and negatives, not just the benefits as promoted in Ministry of Health literature.” say the IAS.

“Parents must know that there are practical steps they can take to raise their children's natural immunity and that the vaccine is not a panacea for meningococcal disease. They must consider the fact that this vaccine is at most, 75% effective against meningitis B, and not only will not protect children from other strains of the disease but may actually make them more vulnerable.”


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