Were children vaccinated with MeNZB more likely to die as a result of being vaccinated?

Perry Bisman says that the MeNZB vaccine “would have given [Charlotte] a 75% chance of survival.”

Unfortunately, that is not true.

Even if Charlotte had been infected with the B strain (and tests at the time failed to identify the strain), the MeNZB vaccine has actually failed to demonstrate efficacy at all in infants (less than 1 years old).

A study by MeNZB researchers just published (http://adc.bmj.com/content/96/8/744.full.pdf) states that “modelling of MeNZB efficacy was unable to demonstrate efficacy in infants aged less than 1 year old.”

This is repeated on page 298 of the MOH’s 2011 Immunisation Handbook. Here is the quote:

“Epidemic strain disease cases in children fully immunised began to be reported within 12 months of the start of the immunisation programme, with the highest rate of vaccine breakthrough reported in infants aged less than 12 months.33 Earlier modelling of MeNZB efficacy was unable to demonstrate efficacy in infants aged less than 12 months, the group most at risk of disease during the New Zealand epidemic.29 The effectiveness
of the Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme was estimated at 73 percent (95% CI: 52–85%) to June 2006. It was estimated the programme averted 54 cases. There had been considerable delays before a vaccine manufacturer was engaged and the epidemic was on the decline when vaccination commenced.30 The decline of the epidemic continues, with the rate of epidemic strain disease at 1.1 cases per 100,000 in 2008, and a similar picture in 2009 (0.9 per 100,000).”

The efficacy study used to ‘demonstrate’ efficacy in fact revealed that infants vaccinated with MeNZB vaccine were 10 percent MORE likely to contract the epidemic strain of meningococcal disease than unvaccinated children.

Kelly C, Arnold R, Galloway Y, et al. 2007. A prospective study of the effectiveness of the New Zealand meningococcal B vaccine. American Journal of Epidemiology 166(7): 817–23. Download article from


Information provided by the Minister of Health revealed that none of the 100,000 children entitled to the MeNZB vaccine who were not given it has died, whereas 15 of the 1 million children vaccinated with one or more doses have died of meningococcal disease. Again, this suggests that children vaccinated with MeNZB were more likely to die as a result of being vaccinated.

Cabinet approved this MeNZB vaccine after being told by the MOH that without intervention there would be 20 deaths a year for the next 10 years, and the MeNZB vaccine would avert 13.6 of those, ie, 136 deaths over 10 years. The official review of the MeNZB vaccination programme concluded it prevented 1.7 deaths and 58 cases of meningococcal disease. It is interesting to note that such a dismal response to a $250 million campaign is even less than what was anticipated in the Meningococcal Gold Rush series (Part 1 and Part 2).