If there ever has been a vaccine that, at least on the surface,
looks like a hands-down success story, it would have to be the
Hib vaccine, against
influenzae type b, a bacterial infection (in spite of its name),
which can be serious and occurs primarily among children under 5
breastfeeding is an effective preventative). The best known
serious complication of this disease is meningitis, but other very
also can result.
The vaccine, it would seem, has resulted in considerable reduction
(">99% compared to the prevaccine era").
It is worth noting, however, that we really don't know all that much
about the incidence of haemophilus influenzae b, particularly prior to
vaccine licensure. According to the CDC,
"haemophilus influenzae infections became nationally reportable in
1991", although "several areas carried out active surveillance...which
allowed estimates of disease nationwide". And according to Ward
and Zangwill in the 1999 Third Edition of "Vaccines",
"invasive H. influenzae type b disease is not reliably reported
nationally or internationally..." At best then, the actual incidence
prior to introduction of the vaccine is only known for certain areas,
and merely an estimate otherwise. Remarkably, it is still
"reportable" in all states, even now.
Also according to the CDC,
Hib vaccines licensed for use in infants did not become available until
1990. Since routine disease reporting and vaccination occurred
almost simultaneously, it is hard to be certain about pre-vaccination
incidence and, hence, how much post-vaccination declines are
attributable to the Hib vaccine, particularly given that the first
vaccine (HbPV - licensed in 1985) against this disease actually
the likelihood of contracting the disease in some children older than
As is often the case with vaccinations, once you look below the
surface, things are not always what they seem. And what is
to emerge is disturbing.
Evidence is beginning to emerge that suppression of one
of bacteria via vaccination may merely result in one or more other
serotypes gaining prominence. Thus, for instance, while
meningitis caused by the haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria may
have declined, meningitis caused by other serotypes may be on the
rise. The same may hold true for pneumonia.
According to Hilary Butler, in her
fascinating exposé of this issue, The
Perilous HIB, just that very thing has been reported: "The June 1992 issue of
Newsletter from the Journal of Paediatric Infectious Disease (JPID)
stated: 'THE PERILOUS PNEUMOCOCCUS. We have great concern for the
increasing prevalence of relatively or absolutely penicillin resistant
pneumococci coupled with the increased relative frequency of
pneumococcal diseases as a result of universal Haemophilus vaccination.'"
We have seen the consequences of indiscriminate use of antibiotics
in the appearance of drug-resistant strains of bacteria.
Clearly bacteria are not passive recipients of our malevolent (at least
to them) intent.
Is one of the consequences of vaccination the manifestation of newly
emerging or prominent diseases, including other forms of meningitis and
pneumonia? If so, then each time it happens, will the situation
inevitably be viewed as requiring additional vaccine intervention?
How are we to determine if the use of one vaccine simply creates the
need for another? Clearly, at a minimum, reporting of meningitis and
pneumonia should be required, including of serotypes, in all states.
only streptococcus pneumonia is a "notifiable disease", and all
meningitis cases are lumped together. (Note that according to the
""Serotype-specific reporting continues to be incomplete".)
This unending, growing apparent need for more and more vaccines
clearly serves the interests of the vaccine manufacturers and those
with financial ties to them. But what about the rest of us?
If it is true that we are merely swapping out one serious disease
for another, and in the process creating a growing need for more and
more vaccines, how do we put a stop to this vicious cycle?
If we don't find a way, will there be no end to the number and
kinds of vaccines we are urged, even required, to get?