The Meningococcal B Debate
Unethical anti-science scaremongering
A media statement issued this week by Ron Law and Barbara Sumner Burstyn claims that results of international trials on
meningococcal B vaccines shows an increase in meningococcal risk in pre-schoolers.
This is a total misinterpretation of the international trials and the meaning of ‘confidence intervals’. There is
absolutely no scientific validity in this press statement.
The studies referred to (discussed in Sexton K et al, NZ Med Journal, 20 Aug 2004) used a meningococcal vaccine two dose
regime and showed that two doses were not effective with pre-schoolers. The importance of these references is to
recognise that children, particularly younger children, need three doses; two doses will not be enough to offer
The studies are presented with statistics using confidence intervals. A confidence interval is the range in which you
expect a true result to lie within. A confidence interval that crosses zero is an indication of lack of efficacy, not an
increased risk of disease.
This is another example of anti-science rhetoric from these misguided people. These authors have no scientific
credibility and once again they have shown an inability to understand or read the basic statistics used to explain
vaccine clinical trials. This is both highly unethical and unfair scaremongering for NZ parents and our children.
Dr Nikki Turner
Immunisation Advisory Centre
University of Auckland