National Immunisation Week

By Siouxsie Wiles 02/05/2011

Apparently last week was National Immunisation Week, promoted by the Ministry of Health as part of the WHO’s Western Pacific Region Vaccination Week. It completely passed me by, hence this post a week after the event. Oops. This is what the WHO had in mind:

Educate parents and caregivers about the importance of vaccination in protecting their children from birth and onwards against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Focus attention on immunization achievements and celebrate the accomplishments made possible through successful collaboration

Revitalize efforts to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases and give them a healthy start in life

Create events that attract community and media to increase the number and visibility of national and local media stories on infant immunization

Recognize local partners and volunteers for their year-round efforts helping to raise childhood immunization coverage, with special emphasis on completing the vaccination series

Open doors for resource mobilization activities at the local, national and regional level

So how did NZ do? A quick search of google doesn’t bring up much in the way of events or media stories. It was mentioned by the Science Media Centre and Plunket, while the Dominion Post ran an article suggesting one of the reasons people don’t vaccinate is because they don’t think the diseases are that serious. I found a press release on the Northland District Health Board’s website which showed quite a few events taking place in their region, including drop in clinics and information stalls in Dargaville and Whangarei.

So while there seems to have been a lack of events that generated serious media interest, lets hope a lot of local events happened and a few more people became convinced of the need to vaccinate. Apparently the Ministry of Health is developing a campaign to lift vaccination rates to the levels needed for herd immunity. This will take the form of an informative, consumer friendly website ( although it doesn’t seem to be up yet) as well as radio, online and magazine advertising targeting parents of under twos. This can’t come soon enough, with another two measles cases confirmed in Auckland last week.

The campaign was one of the recommendations of a recent report to government on how to improve vaccination rates. Needless to say, the report is long but starts with a summary of its recommendations which include:

exploring providing incentives to immunisation providers and parents.

strengthening the requirements on parents to present immunisation information when their children enrol at early childhood centres or schools.

strengthening the legal and contractual requirements for health professionals involved in maternity care to provide scientifically credible immunisation information, in contexts including antenatal classes.

Predictably, our friends at the Immunisation Awareness Society* are urging everyone to contact their MP and make a stand against what they describe as the ‘Draconian measures’ and ‘infringements on our liberty’. I suggest we all contact our MP’s in support of the recommendations.

On a lighter note, last month Andrew Wakefield was awarded the Pigasus** Refusal to Face Reality Award by the James Randi Educational Foundation. Since 1997, the Pigasus Awards have been bestowed annually on the most deserving charlatans, swindlers, psychics, pseudo-scientists, and faith healers–and on their credulous enablers, too. This year, Wakefield was deemed a worthy recipient as he continues to flog the dead horse that is his ‘link’ between MMR and autism, despite the fact he has been struck off the medical register and his work thoroughly debunked***.

* The non-profit charity which claims to be dedicated to promoting informed choice. Providing you choose not to vaccinate, that is….

** The awards are named for both the mythical flying horse Pegasus of Greek mythology and the highly improbable flying pig of popular cliche.

*** A few of us have blogged about this see here and here for starters.

0 Responses to “National Immunisation Week”

  • When I was a baby, my mom, dad, and grandmother all contracted pertussis. My dad says it was the most terrifying illness he’s ever had; at one point your throat just closes up for what seems like forever and you *know* you’re going to die. He says when it happened to him he just ran out the front door in a panic, not that it would have helped. Luckily he made it, but some- especially the very young- don’t survive whooping cough. It is not to be messed with.

  • I know Dr. Wakefield’s paper has been debunked and retracted. Does this paper still exist?

    Pediatrics. 1998 Mar;101(3 Pt 1):383-7.

    Acute encephalopathy followed by permanent brain injury or death associated with further attenuated measles vaccines: a review of claims submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

    Weibel RE, Caserta V, Benor DE, Evans G.

    SourceDivision of Vaccine Injury Compensation, National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, Health Resources and Services Administration, Public Health Service, Rockville, Maryland 20857, USA.

    OBJECTIVE: To determine if there is evidence for a causal relationship between acute encephalopathy followed by permanent brain injury or death associated with the administration of further attenuated measles vaccines (Attenuvax or Lirugen, Hoechst Marion Roussel, Kansas City, MO), mumps vaccine (Mumpsvax, Merck and Co, Inc, West Point, PA), or rubella vaccines (Meruvax or Meruvax II, Merck and Co, Inc, West Point, PA), combined measles and rubella vaccine (M-R-Vax or M-R-Vax II, Merck and Co, Inc, West Point, PA), or combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (M-M-R or M-M-R II, Merck and Co, Inc, West Point, PA), the lead author reviewed claims submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

    METHODS: The medical records of children who met the inclusion criteria of receiving the first dose of these vaccines and who developed such an encephalopathy with no determined cause within 15 days were identified and analyzed.

    RESULTS: A total of 48 children, ages 10 to 49 months, met the inclusion criteria after receiving measles vaccine, alone or in combination. Eight children died, and the remainder had mental regression and retardation, chronic seizures, motor and sensory deficits, and movement disorders. The onset of neurologic signs or symptoms occurred with a nonrandom, statistically significant distribution of cases on days 8 and 9. No cases were identified after the administration of monovalent mumps or rubella vaccine.

    CONCLUSIONS: This clustering suggests that a causal relationship between measles vaccine and encephalopathy may exist as a complication of measles immunization

  • It may not have been censored, debunked, banned, retacted, villified yet Martha, but wait until they find out that it is out there. They will somehow destroy the credibility of these authors too.

  • Martha,
    Thank you for the reference it will be interesting to read it in full.
    Very few papers are ever retracted, most questionable papers are picked up in peer review, and those that aren’t and have minor errors are often corrected using addenda. Only in the case of blatant fraud or errors are they retracted.
    It will be interesting to read the paper in full, because the summary you provide doesn’t include important information, for example,
    what the inclusion criteria was?
    What was the total number of childrens medical records that were used?
    What is the percentage of children who develop similar conditions outside of the 15 day time period?
    What is the percentage of children who develop these disorders when they have not been vaccinated? It is an unfortunate fact of life that patients (children and adults) will contract various diseases and die, or be disabled, despite the best medical care. If trying to identify a causal relationship it is very important to separate any such deaths from a background of “normal” child mortality.

  • “wait until they find out that it is out there”

    It’s been 13 years, and according to Google Scholar, that paper has been cited 41 times since then – hardly secret. The top paper on the citation list generated by Google was written in 2002, and looked at over 500,000 children. It did not “identify any association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, or autism.”

    No doubt someone who understands research better than my amateur googling skills can address the issue more comprehensively.

  • I tried a bit of Googling. From the article quoted by Martha:

    “…with a denominator of 75,000,000 vaccinees throughout 23 years, the incidence of acute encephalopathy caused by measles vaccine in this cohort can reasonably be described as very low”


    “Post-infectious encephalopathy complicates approximately 1 in 1000 cases of natural measles and results in a mortality rate of 10% to 20% and permanent central nervous system impairment in the majority of survivors.”

    Citing an incidence of 48 / 75,000,000 without noting the incidence of encephalopathy of 1/1000 (75,000 out of 75 million) after natural measles disease reflects carelessness or propaganda.

    I’m also curious why you left out “between 1970 and 1993” from the Method paragraph.

    I’m not denying the conclusion of the paper but merely putting it in context.


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