In the early post marketing surveillance of adverse episodes carried out in 1982-1985, it was found that in a few hours or days following injection of plasma derived hepatitis B vaccine, occasionally the vaccinee experienced bouts of nervous system disorders. Except for GBS, it was believed the occurrence of the other reported neuropathies did not exceed that which would be expected to occur in nonvaccinated cohorts.
The authors of the original study (two American government agencies and Merck Sharp and Dohme Research Laboratories, which made the vaccine) point out that the preventive benefits in persons at high risk would outweigh the risks of any neurologic event. These sentences imply that it would not be illogical for a concerned parent to reject injection of hepatitis B vaccine into a healthy child, because of the risk of neurological injury, especially GBS, which outweighs their risk of contracting the illness.
Accurate and sensitive techniques have recently shown that the hepatitis B carrier rate in New Zealand in the early 1980s was 10 per cent in the Maori and less than 1 per cent in the non Maori; 5.8 per cent in pregnant Maori women and 0.9 per cent in pregnant non Maori women. Is this a population at high risk? Does the benefit derived in this population by hepatitis B vaccine injection exceed the risks listed in the New Zealand medical assessor's report?
The proposed programme to inject hepatitis B vaccine in all babies of less infectious mothers and all newborn babies in seven districts in New Zealand has come to a halt. This was due principally to two reasons: (1) A memorandum was issued by the Health Department advising delay in injecting the first dose of vaccine; and (2) the reluctance of many medical practitioners to administer the vaccine in the manner suggest by the Health Department.
When the HB programme was zealously launched in 1985, the national coordinator of the programme said that New Zealand was leading the world by initiating such a comprehensive national campaign, that the eyes of the worldwould be on New Zealand.
In one respect, the national coordinator is right.
For more information on this and other jabs, WDDTY has available its Vaccination Handbook, a 32 page booklet. To order, send £5.25 to our offices at 4 Wallace Rd, London N1 2PG.