A media release being issued by a self-proclaimed group of 'experts', including many with financial links to vaccine manufacturers, is calling for increased use of vaccines against pneumococcal bacteria as a way of preventing pneumonia. This release claims that, "poor vaccination rates [have led to increases in pneumonia] among younger Australians , many of whom are at increased risk of developing pneumococcal pneumonia - a severe form of pneumonia caused by bacteria -compared with those aged 65 years and over."
There are several points to consider when looking at the information from this group:
1- Will increased use of pneumococcal vaccines lead to declines in either the notification or mortality (death rates) from pneumococcal pneumonia?
According to correspondence published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation (WHO), increasing the level of vaccination will NOT reduce the reported incidence of pneumonia (Incidence of pneumonia is not reduced by pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, vol.86 no.10 Genebra Oct. 2008). 2- Are those aged between 15 and 64 truly at greater risk of contracting or dying from pneumonia caused by pneumococcus as these 'experts' have stated?
As you can see from the following table (Australian deaths from pneumonia per 100,000/population, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare), those in the age group 15-64 are far LESS likely to die from pneumonia then those aged 65 and up. In addition, please note the huge decrease in deaths from pneumonia well BEFORE the introduction of pneumococcal vaccination for either children (2005) or the elderly (1999). If this campaign is meant to prevent deaths in people aged 15-64, it's a bit late as the death rate from pneumonia in this age group is nearly zero.
3- What percentage of all cases of pneumonia are caused by pneumococcal bacteria?
According to the American Lung Association, pneumococcal bacteria only cause approximately 14% of all cases of pneumonia meaning that, even if 100% of the population were vaccinated and the vaccine was 100% effective (and we know it's not), the reported incidence of pneumonia would not show a substantial decrease.
4- Will use of the pneumococcal vaccine reduce the incidence of illness?
This vaccine is meant to prevent infection with a bacterium -Streptococcus pneumoniae - rather than preventing any particular disease. The vast majority of children and adults can and do carry this bacteria in their nose and throat without any symptoms of illness. The vaccine can't prevent us from coming into contact with the bacteria - nor has its use led to any decline in the incidence of invasive disease. Levels of meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia have not gone down because of the vaccination - in fact, we see the death rate increasing in the elderly following the introduction of pneumococcal vaccination.
5- Will vaccinating against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria provide true protection against pneumococcal pneumonia?
There are 91 different strains of pneumococcal bacteria that we know of - yet the vaccine only contains 23. As shown by studies in multiple locations around the world, use of bacterial vaccines leads to a phenomenon called serogroup replacement whereby those strains not contained in the shot become more prevalent. They then become the cause of disease, requiring further vaccination and the emergence of different and potentially more dangerous strains of bacteria (as we have seen with the pertussis vaccine).
This has been confirmed by the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation article (cited above) which states that, "...although the vaccine may have an effect on "vaccine-serotype bacteraemic" pneumonia, it does not reduce clinical pneumonia. In other words, regardless of what is reported about the vaccine's effectiveness against a microbe, it does not reduce actual illness." If the rate of pneumonia is acknowledged as being unaffected by this vaccine, why are these 'experts' pushing for us to continue using it?
6- Is there any evidence at all that use of this vaccine has led to a decline in either incidence of or deaths from invasive pneumococcal disease?
Invasive pneumococcal disease is defined as either meningitis, septicaemia or pneumonia caused by the pneumococcal bacteria. All of these diseases can be caused by a host of other viruses and bacteria - most of which are not targeted by vaccination. As you can see from the following table and the graph above, since the introduction of pneumococcal vaccines, there has been no decline in either incidence or deaths from invasive pneumococcal disease. In fact, deaths in the elderly increased after the introduction of pneumococcal vaccines in that age group in 1999.
7- Do the 'experts' intend to provide parents with real scientific information on this vaccine to allow them to make an informed choice or will they show the same lack of respect to Australian families as they did when pneumococcal vaccines were introduced in NZ? (the following slides are from a presentation to NZ Health Professionals in 2006, prepared by the Australian company, Jigsaw Healthcare Strategic Research)
If, as the last slide has stated, vaccination safety lobby groups like the Australian Vaccination Network have managed to make parents aware that it is their right to question all medical procedures, including vaccination, before making a choice, then we feel we have done an excellent job.
Every drug and every vaccine has both benefits and risks. Those 'experts' who feel that censoring data on any aspect of this vital debate is in the best interests of families, are taking actions that may lead to the deaths and permanent disabilities of children and adults. That is not their role nor is it their right.
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