Immunisation Critics Confused
Project Manager - Communications
Meningococcal Vaccine Strategy
Public Health Operations
Ministry of Health
8 February 2005
Immunisation critics confused
The Meningococcal Gold Rush article published on the scoop.co.nz website shows a poor understanding of the rigorous processes and procedures used in New Zealand and overseas to develop, license and administer vaccines.
Meningococcal Vaccine Strategy Director Dr Jane O'Hallahan said today that international experts agree that the New Zealand Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme is a sound intervention to protect public health.
"To date, about 470,000 doses of the MeNZBTM vaccine have been administered in New Zealand. The vaccine is carefully monitored and in its last findings the Independent Safety Monitoring Board said it had no concerns in relation to safety of the MeNZBTM vaccine," she said.
"Just last week Medsafe, New Zealand's medicines regulatory authority, recommended the extension of the MeNZBTM vaccine's licence to include babies aged six weeks and older," she said.
Among other things, the article is incorrect in its claims about the New Zealand clinical trials. It is worth noting that the scoop website has a policy of publishing any media statement issued in New Zealand so long as it is legible, sane and not defamatory. This makes it an avenue for immunisation critics.
Several clinical trials, involving 1703 participants, examined the safety and immunogenicity of the MeNZBTM vaccine used in New Zealand. In addition, relevant and applicable data from trials of similar vaccines elsewhere in the world provides reassurance about the safety of the MeNZB TM vaccine and its ability to generate an immune response. The trials of MeNZBTM vaccine followed international guidelines and the methodology for the trials was peer reviewed not just by New Zealand experts but also by experts from the Centers for Disease Control (USA), Health Protection Agency (UK), and the World Health Organisation.
"The Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme involves thousands of people from dozens of different organisations working over the past decade to protect the health of thousands of New Zealand children," Dr O'Hallahan said.
The article repeats previously made incorrect claims that the epidemic of Meningococcal B disease is waning in New Zealand and that funding the immunisation programme is a waste of money.
"The meningococcal disease epidemic clearly continues, with about 75% of confirmed group B meningococcal disease cases being the epidemic strain. A similar proportion of probable cases are also likely to be the epidemic strain. This is supported by advices from epidemiological experts at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited who, because of this epidemic, are now among the world's foremost experts at identifying and analysing such data," Dr O'Hallahan said.
Where can I get more information about the techniques used by the anti-immunisation lobby
The study An Attempt To Swindle Nature:Anti-Immunization Press Reports in Australia 1993-1997, written by Julie-Anne Leask and Dr Simon Chapman, can be found online at http://childrensvaccine.org/files/Leask.pdf