Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Meningococcal vaccine is a scam--but you may forfeit an education if you refuse

On January 3, 2018 the Maine Legislature's joint committee on health discussed adding the Meningococcal ACWY vaccine to the list required to attend school.  France just added 8 vaccines to its required list last week.  Around the world, a push to get more and more vaccines into schoolchildren, using the threat to withhold schooling, has gained momentum.

Yet some vaccines have nothing to recommend them for schoolchildren.  Such as the  meningococcal (Menactra/Menveo) vaccines.  I summarized the facts for our legislators below.

Be mindful of the following, please, as it is never taught in health class:  meningococcal disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics, if caught early.  When a child has fever, headache, and a rash or stiff neck they should see a doctor IMMEDIATELY for treatment.

January 2, 2018

Dear Legislators:

You finally have an easy decision to make.  There is not a single good reason to add meningococcal vaccine to the schedule required for schoolchildren in Maine.

Only 3 factors need to be considered: 
  • 1.   How much benefit?
  • 2.    How much harm?
  • 3.    How much does it cost?

1.  The potential benefit eludes us. CDC says there were between zero and one cases of meningococcal meningitis in Maine last year. 

Zero to one cases.  In the entire US, only 185 people had a form of meningitis (C, W or Y) that could potentially be prevented by this vaccine last year.

You have been told that the purpose of vaccination is to protect adolescents and young adults, who are at higher risk of this disease.

Really?  CDC tells us that in children and young adults aged 11 through 23, there were only 21 cases in 2016, in the entire US, that might have been prevented by vaccination.

You may think that vaccination is needed for herd immunity.  But that isn't actually true. You may be surprised to learn that about 1/3 of people carry meningococcus in their nose at any one time, and the majority continue to carry it--even after they are vaccinated.  So, herd immunity cannot be achieved for this disease using vaccines.

2.  What are the harms?  The label says that in clinical trials, 1.0-1.3% of adults and adolescents had a serious adverse event. Regarding milder adverse events, over 25% of recipients reported headaches and fatigue. A rare but very serious side effect, Guillain-Barre syndrome, may occur.  The Menactra vaccine package insert estimates that between zero and five people, per million vaccinated, may get Guillain Barre syndrome as a result.

So while less than one in a million Americans will get a meningococcal C, W or Y infection in a year, an additional 0 to 5 people per million vaccinated will develop Guillain Barre syndrome (within six weeks of their vaccination).

This is a remarkable statistic.  The risk-benefit equation for this vaccine is so bad, it should never have been licensed in the first place. 

But it was.  And now you are being asked to expand its use.

3.  What is the cost?  CDC says the federal government pays $89 dollars per dose, and the private sector $113.

The cost to vaccinate 183,000 schoolchildren in Maine with 2 doses, at $100/dose, is $40 million dollars, which someone has to pay.

The vaccine proposal is an expensive boondoggle.  The only beneficiaries of this bill are the pharmaceutical industry and its handmaidens.  Please don't fall for this scam.

Meryl Nass, M.D.
MIT graduate
Currently practicing Internal Medicine in Ellsworth, Maine

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