Phase Three Trials Were Not in the Best Interests of Children and Young People.
Since 1991 5600 cases of meningococcal disease have occurred in New Zealand. The majority of these people have been cared for by members of our Society who sadly know too well what a terrifying brain and body destroying condition it can be.
With expert care and high levels of community awareness less than 5% of patients die but about 12% are left with permanent disability such as loss of limbs, brain damage or hearing loss. Although the epidemic may have reached its peak we know without a vaccination programme it still has 6-10 years to run with about 3500 more cases, 600 suffering disability and 190 dying.
Such high levels of disease mean it was irresponsible to delay vaccination once an effective safe vaccine was available.
To do phase three trials tens of thousands of children would have to have been left unvaccinated while another group was vaccinated. Over the following months the level of disease in the two groups would have been followed in detail. In the UK and USA, as in New Zealand, good information on antibody production meant it was not considered necessary to do phase 3 trials. To have done these trials in New Zealand would have substantially delayed protecting most of our children and young people with many tragic outcomes. The Society feels that the Ministry of Health has responded to the epidemic with wise steps to protect our children and tackle a killer. Each step of the development of this programme has been prudent and timely following the best advice available locally and overseas. Our members look forward to fewer children and young people suffering and less need to break tragic news to families.
If parents and caregivers have concerns about vaccination for their child they should consult a health professional they trust.
Dr Nick Baker BSc.MBChB, DCH, FRACP
Paediatric Society of New Zealand Incorporated