Wednesday, July 20, 2005

MeNZB feedback

A few posts ago I mentioned the debate on TV ones close up program on the MeNZB immunisation campaign. The feedback has been a mixed bag of both high points and some obvious low points. One of the respondants writes:
In order to do justice to the subject it requires a decent two-hour debate where probing questions can really be answered. Mud-slinging and misinformation on both sides on a very controversial and heated subject does little to help parents make informed decisions. We have decided against immunisation in this case, but boy - sifting through the misinformation to try and elicit any form of truth is harrowing. Good luck Susan, you can head this debate! Anna, Auckland
As I demonstrated just a few posts ago, the misinformation is certainly clear and it's coming from people who manipulate the truth and science for their misguided agenda. Apparently it seems a lot harder for the MOH and other pro-science groups to answer the distortion-a-minute rhetoric coming from the anti-vaccination groups. Another comments that;
This discussion was not long enough. I felt the ending was terribly rushed and the anti guy was cast in a bad light which may have aroused the anti group to be even more passionate about their cause. Margi.
Ron Law was not just cast in a bad light but he actually deserves it from his past history of distorting basic scientific facts. The fact at the end it was pointed out that Ron doesn't have any recent scientific expertise or training in the area he is criticising is a strong point, even if he didn't get the opportunity to respond, his poor answers on the program and the statements made with Barbara Sumner Burstyn, herself not having any scientific credentials either, in other public forums really says a lot about their credibility as I addressed earlier. That several viewers who responded to the program thought that Ron Law came off badly shouldn't be a surprise.

Unfortunately for Margi, these people are unlikely to be any more passionate about spreading their rhetoric because they already were extremely keen on doing so to begin with. Other feedback is more about being confused than anything else:
I am appalled at that woman on there tonight and how the doctors are too quick to blame any incidents of side effects on that 'the child must have been sick before the shot' or 'there are so many viruses around'. Define virus for us Mums and Dads! -Nikki, Waikanae
Firstly, the vaccine is clearly most effective early on and immunity has been demonstrated to wane over time. Although children should be protected for 2 years or so, it's unknown how effective the immunological memory to the vaccine will be after this time, although it is predicted to be good after the three shots (which is why the decision to use three shots was made to begin with). It's best to administer the treatment closest to the time that people will be at risk, because the immune response will be at its strongest during the immediate period after the shot. This also corresponds to the time that people are most likely to get the infection to begin with.

It is also unfortunate that this period does correspond to the time that the majority of viruses and other 'bugs' are doing the rounds. The colder winter months and chilly conditions naturally aid the movement of common flu viruses, such as rhinovirus or various influenza strains and many other nasties. It is going to be true that these will make the rounds and people will get sick at this time. However, as I've discussed earlier side effects with this vaccine are fairly common but the overwhelming evidence is that these are only minor and not significantly dangerous. As people who have seen the effects of meningitis first hand will testify, these are infinitely minor compared to the pain, suffering and potentially lethal effects of a full blown meningitis infection.

In some respects, those who have seen the disease are amazed that those who have no first hand experience would ever allow themselves to put their children at risk of meningitis. For example, Brendas feedback is a good example of this kind of sentiment:
In May 2004, my partner and I lost our 9 month old son to MENZB*. My opinion is that any parent risking their children to such a fatal disease must hope that they never get to see the devastating effects. At the time of losing my 9 month old I was again pregnant. Since the birth of my daughter, she has had all three of her injections. Any cover is so much better than no cover at all.
Sadly, there are many who may not heed this advice and I hope that it doesn't ever come back to bite them. For more feedback visit close ups feedback page for this week.

*Note, I would assume here that this is a typo and the disease she is referencing isn't MeNZB as in the vaccine, but the meningococcal group B organism that causes the disease. This is a bit of a gaff on TVones part however.