Website editor’s note:  The article below was posted in 2011. Since it was written, there have been significant changes to the websites of both IMAC and the NZ Ministry of Health.  For this reason, links to pages on these websites which were correct at the time that the article was posted on this website may no longer be functional.

This article has been retained despite the fact that links to external sites have changed as the article discusses issues relating to vaccination which were highly topical at the time.  In particular, the controversy surrounding the meningoccocal B vaccination campaign discussed in the article forms part of NZ’s social  and medical history.  While at least one of the vaccines discussed in this article (the MeNZB vaccine) is no longer on the NZ market, the article does discusses vaccines that remain on vaccination schedule recommended by the NZ Ministry of Health, including the MMR vaccine and Gardasil.



Vaccination is an area which is deeply influenced by commercial interests.  A vaccine is a product into which pharmaceutical companies have invested large amounts of money to get it to the stage at which it can be marketed to individuals and or government departments such as the NZ Ministry of Health.  Like any company that produces products that can cause adverse health outcomes, the vaccine industry (like the tobacco industry) attempts to dismiss health risks of its products in favour of the purported benefits.  (Like vaccines, smoking was once promoted as being good for your health and was widely endorsed by the medical community, thanks in part to the tobacco companies’ support of medical journals by advertising in them.)

In NZ, one of the ways in which vaccination is promoted to both the medical profession and the general public is through the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC).  IMAC’s website lists five major vaccine companies (as well as the Ministry of Health) as sponsors.

IMAC claims to be a source of “a local source of independent, factual information including benefits and risks regarding immunisation, and vaccine-preventable disease.”

IMAC staff (usually Dr Nikki Turner and Helen Petoussis-Harris) are often asked to comment on vaccine-related issues in the mainstream media.  A cursory look at their website shows that the organisation, far from being “independent” is vociferously pro-vaccine and much of the information on their website downplays the risks of vaccines to the point of being factually inaccurate.

For example, the page for parents about measles on IMAC’s site states:

“Can the MMR vaccine cause autism? NO. Extensive research shows there is no evidence that MMR vaccine causes autism – or any other behavioral or neurological disorder.”  [Original emphasis]

This statement is untrue.  There is considerable evidence that the MMR can cause regressive autism (and other forms of brain damage) in some children, as the authors of one study acknowledged.

“These results show that primary pediatric MMR vaccination in children is associated with a marked Increase in serious neurological disorders in comparison to DTwcP vaccination.  The increase is statistically significant for cerebellar ataxia, autism, mental retardation and permanent brain damage following primary pediatric MMR vaccination in comparison to DTwcP vaccination. The results are remarkable considering that DTwcP vaccination has been found by the scientific and medical communities to be responsible for permanent neurological sequalae in children.” [emphasis added]

NB:  DTwcP is a vaccine containing antigens from Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis.  The “wc” indicates that the pertussis component is a “whole cell”  pertussis vaccine i.e. that it contains whole, killed pertussis bacteria.

The rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in NZ is now estimated to be 1 in 100 people.  This is putting severe strain on education services – and many autistic children miss out on the special assistance that they need to benefit from their schooling.  Many of the people affected by ASD will never be able to earn their own living or even live independently.  As a nation we ignore the connections between vaccination and autism at our peril – for more information on the MMR autism link, please see the review of Callous Disregard on page –.   It is interesting to note that the MMR vaccine used in NZ is manufactured by Merck.  MSD is one of IMAC’s sponsors.

Here is another example of IMAC’s contempt for parents’ right to be properly informed about vaccine side effects;  this time on the page for parents about pneumococcal disease on IMAC’s website:

“Is the [pneumococcal] vaccine safe? No serious reactions have been associated with pneumococcal vaccines.”

However, the manufacturer’s datasheet on Medsafe’s website states:

“As with other paediatric vaccines, there have been spontaneous reports of apnoea in temporal association with the administration of Prevenar…”

As a parent, I would consider apnoea (temporary cessation of breathing) in a young baby after vaccination to a very serious reaction, wouldn’t you?

IMAC obviously disagrees.  (The pneumococcal vaccine on the NZ vaccination schedule “Prevenar”, is manufactured by Wyeth, one of IMAC’s sponsors.)

No doubt if you read IMAC’s information for parents about other vaccines and compare this with the manufacturer’s datasheets, many more examples of this kind could be found but I believe that I have made my point.

IMAC’s website is not the alone in promoting vaccines to parents by omittting information about side effects that is crucial for making an informed decision about vaccination.  The website of the NZ Ministry of Health is also a source of dis-information about vaccination, downplaying the risks of the vaccine relative to the risks of the disease.

For example, the Ministry of Health website’s information on hepatitis B vaccination states:

“No links have been reported between the vaccine and multiple sclerosis (a disease of the nervous system), diabetes, or encephalitis.”

This is completely untrue.  Links have most certainly been made between hepatitis B vaccination and increased risk of developing diabetes.  For example:

There have also been links made between hepatitis B vaccines and multiple sclerosis

Similarly, a link has been made between the Hepatitis B vaccine and encephalitis:

The manufacturer of one brand of Hepatitis B vaccine “Energix B” acknowledges in its prescribing information that encephalitis has been reported to occur after vaccination with its product and reminds US physicians of their obligation to report this adverse to VAERS if it occurs within 72 hours of vaccination.

This letter to the British Medical Journal  raises concerns that the vaccine may be associated with arthritis and lupus as well.

The Ministry of Health site has the following statement about the safety of the HPV vaccine Gardasil.

“Severe risks associated with the vaccine

No severe side effects were seen in large clinical trials.”

However if you look at the prescribing information prepared by the Gardasil’s manufacturer (Merck) you will see that some of the girls and women who  participated in clinical trials did develop some serious health problems including arthritis, autoimmune thyroiditis, and hyperthyroidism.  These serious conditions were fortunately rare, but they did occur.

Since Gardasil has been marketed, more potential adverse effects have also been identified such as blood clots, Guillane Barre Syndrome and other serious conditions, including in some cases, sudden death.

The Ministry of Health’s website is funded by New Zealand taxpayers.  It should have accurate information on its site, rather than denying that  vaccination entails real, and serious risks. Even when these risks are small or controversial, people deserve to know about them as part of making an informed choice about vaccination.


The brief article (above) is obviously not the last word on vaccines.  My purpose in writing it is to alert readers to the fact that information from what should be reliable sources (such as the Ministry of Health) is often biased in favour of vaccination.  Typically, the risks of the vaccine are downplayed while the threat of the disease is exaggerated.   Ministry of Health-produced brochures about vaccination and consent forms for different vaccines are also similarly biased.

An interesting experiment is to take any Ministry of Health  (or IMAC) website page or brochure regarding vaccination and compare the potential adverse effects of the vaccine according to the Ministry of Health or (IMAC) with the prescribing information produced by the vaccine’s manufacturer.  The datasheets for vaccines in the New Zealand market can be viewed by going to and clicking on the link “Medicine Datasheets” and then typing the trade name or ingredients of the vaccine into the search box.  (If you are unfamiliar with medical terms you may like to use one of the free on-line medical dictionaries such as or )  Or you could click on the “Consumer Medicine Information” link on the Medsafe site and first read about the relevant vaccine in non-technical language before reading the datasheet designed for health professionals.)

The datasheets on the Medsafe website provide a reasonably comprehensive, but not exhaustive list of potential side effects.  (Some of the most serious possible side effects are not included as manufacturers either dispute or do not want to admit any relationship between their products and serious long term conditions such as autism or diabetes, for example.)  However, reading any datasheet shows how  Ministry of Health produced-information sources make a mockery of the concept of informed consent by omitting most of the serious adverse effects associated with vaccination.

Influenza vaccination campaign 2010:  Government and media responses

In 2010 there was considerable public interest in the subject of vaccination in New Zealand due to the vigorous promotion of influenza vaccination for the 2010 “flu season”.  In NZ,  free influenza vaccination was extended to healthy children under the age of five years who were enrolled in medical practices where a large proportion of the patients are Maori or Polynesian and/or those in “high deprivation” (i.e. impoverished) areas.  (In previous years, it had been subsidised only for children with chronic health problems.) The effect of increased use of influenza vaccines was to increase the number of people reporting serious side effects following vaccination, including seizures and febrile convulsions.

Influenza vaccination for young children was also promoted widely in Australia.  On April 9, 2010,  two year old Ashley Jade Epapara, toddler died in her Brisbane home within 12 hours of receiving an influenza vaccine.  Her twin sister, Jamie also vaccinated, was reported to have vomited following her vaccination.

Ashley Jade and Jamie were among many children reported to have suffered side effects following vaccination with CSL’s influenza vaccine “Fluvax Junior”.

Following Ashley Jade’s death, the NZ Ministry of Health advised doctors against using Fluvax in children under five years of age.  It also attempted to assuage parents’ legitimate fears about the safety of influenza vaccines by posting information about febrile convulsions on its website and recommending  that people should still be vaccinated.

Interestingly,  CSL’s Fluvax, was tested on a very small number of children before it was released to the general population.
From information provided by CSL about Fluvax Junior, it appears that the vaccine was tested on only 151 children from 6 months up to 3 years, and 148 children aged 3 – 9 years, and that the children were only followed up for only 30 days after each injection.

While the NZ Herald gave fair coverage of the issue of adverse effects related to influenza vaccination, other media took completely contrary approaches to the issue.  In May, the Christchurch Press published an article called “A jab in time” extolling the purported benefits of vaccination.  The article was full of factual inaccuracies, however, the Christchurch Press refused to publish any letters correcting its reporter’s numerous errors,  including a letter from  Mrs Alex Snelgrove, whose previously normally son became autistic following vaccines administered when he was two years old.  (In the article, Mrs Snelgrove is referred to as Mr Snelgrove.)

However the piece de resistance of what appears to be a pro-vaccine propaganda push in the mainstream media was a cover story in North and South magazine called “The case for vaccination”.  The cover of this issue featured a photograph of Charlotte Cleverly-Bisman a beautiful child who lost over half of each of her arms and legs to a severe meningococcal infection that she suffered when she was a baby.  In the photograph, the stumps of her lost limbs are displayed for the camera.  The cover of the magazine also features a quote attributed to her father Perry Bisman.

“We have friends who have seen everything Charlotte’s gone through and still refuse to vaccinate their kids.  It’s their choice but it still staggers me.”

I have never met either Charlotte, her parents or any other members of her family. However, from the television coverage that I have seen about Charlotte’s illness and recovery, it is clear that she has been blessed with parents who are dedicated to her well being. Judging by their decision to use Charlotte’s suffering as a tool in campaign to encourage other parents to vaccinate their children, it appears that that they are also public spirited.

It’s unfortunate that Perry Bisman appears to believe that vaccination confers protection against disease, and that vaccination entails only a “very small calculated risk”.  It would be great if the vaccination issue were this simple.  However, given that government authorities and vaccine companies do not disclose many of the risks of vaccination, many well-meaning parents, Mr Bisman included, vaccinate their children, and in good faith, encourage other parents to do likewise.

However, in the case of meningococcal disease, the fact is that exposure to meningococci does not necessarily cause meningococcal disease.  This is also true of some other organisms against which children are now routinely vaccinated such as haemophilus influenzae and various strains of pneumococcal bacteria.  A significant proportion of the population carries these bacteria in the back of their nose or throat without developing illness.  Most children, regardless of whether or not they are ever vaccinated against meningococal disease, never develop meningococcal meningitis or septicaemia.  While there can be variations in the pathogenicity of different strains of bacteria, in a healthy individual the immune system usually keeps meningococci bacteria (and a whole host of potentially pathogenic bacteria, besides) in check.

Meningococcal disease does not normally strike completely randomly.  A number of factors are known to increase the risk of developing invasive meningococcal disease.

Increased risk of developing meningococcal disease is associated with living in poverty, overcrowded households and other social environments and  exposure to cigarette smoke.  Heavy alcohol consumption and smoking has also been shown to increase carriage of meningococcal bacteria which may then cause illness in a susceptible carrier or be passed on to others. (poverty)  (poverty)  (household crowding)  (overcrowding)  (alcohol consumption and meningococcal carriage)  (smokers’ carriage of meningococcal bacteria)

In young children, recent use of analgesic preparations (such as the paracetamol syrups are frequently administered by New Zealand parents to relieve discomfort suffered by children who are teething and to reduce pain and fever associated with vaccination or infections) are associated with increased risk of meningococcal infection. (analgesic use)

British research in the 1990s also found an association between increase risk of this disease to physical factors such as exposure to dust from stone, plaster or brick as well as passive smoking.  Stressful life events such as moving house, marital arguments and legal disputes within the previous six months also appeared to be risk factors.

Children whose mothers have smoked during the pregnancy and who have had a low weight at birth are at increased risk of developing meningococcal disease, according to one study.  Babies who are born premature have an increased risk of developing meningococcal disease in the first year of their life, but from their second year of life their risk declines to normal.

Good nutrition is generally protective against disease.  In the case of meningooccal disease, breast feeding has been shown to have a protective effect.

However, the importance of good nutrition doesn’t disappear by the time children have outgrown the need to nurse.    Iron deficiency which is common in NZ children can impede immune system effectiveness and may result increased risk of infection, including meningococcal disease.  (Iron deficiency and meningococcal disease)

(NB:  Iron supplements can be toxic in overdose and need to be kept out of reach of children.  Parents should consult a health professional about the advisability of iron supplements.  Breastfed babies do not generally need iron supplements as the iron in breast milk and their own body stores should be sufficient for the first six months of their life. As a general rule, iron supplements should be discontinued during acute infection as use at this time may increase the risk of developing secondary bacterial infections.)

Vitamin C deficiency may also predispose to meningococcal disease, and indeed, the haemorrhagic purpura (non-blanching rash) of fulminant meningococcal disease may constitute an acute form of scurvy.  According to Dr Mike Godfrey:

“The features of meningococcal sepsis include a severe capillary leak syndrome and disseminated intravascular coagulation or clots. It is possible that this could effectively be acute haemorrhagic scurvy and eminently amenable to appropriate therapy. The 1940-70s literature supports this with parenteral [IV] ascorbic acid (AA) capable of destroying diphtheria, tetanus, salmonella, gas gangrene (clostridium) and meningococcal endotoxins.

Prof. Clemetson’s 1989 3 volume textbook on Vit.C showed why bacterial toxin-induced mortality increases with AA depletion. Other researchers have confirmed that non-survivors from meningitis having oxidised whatever AA reserves they had to neutralize bacterial toxins, suffered acute, lethal scurvy.

“AA levels in the spinal fluid of meningitis patients has been negatively correlated with the outcome of patients with bacterial meningitis and thus, its depletion also may be an indicator of a bad prognosis.
“Up to 15% of the population may be scorbutic (<0.2mg/100ml serum) and thus at increased risk of bacterial endotoxin toxicity as would many of the impoverished and nutrient-deficient South Auckland populations. The latent scorbutic state can then be converted into frank scurvy by infections (and even vaccines), and under such conditions hemorrhagic phenomena are frequent. All of the pathophysiological features of haemorrhagic and thrombotic conditions found in bacterial meningitis are seen in AA deficiency states.
“It could therefore surely be appropriate to administer this safe and cheap therapy concurrently with antibiotics to everyone suspected of this disease. Indeed, it is possibly only “when the liver is overwhelmed by bacterial toxin that a fulminating haemorrhagic disease ensues.
“However, for maximum effectiveness continuous AA infusions at 0.7G/Kg/ or more/24hrs may be required. The whole reason for a vaccine is to prevent severe disease and/or deaths but surely if we have a cheap, safe effective way of making the disease comparatively trivial, there would  hardly be a need for a vaccine.”
– “Meningitis or scurvy?” by Dr Mike Godfrey

It is significant that Dr Godfrey acknowledges that both infections and vaccines could precipitate frank scurvy in people whose vitamin C status is already marginal.

He is not the only doctor to be concerned about the connection between vaccination and immune suppression.  Consider the following quote from Dr Harold Buttram.

“As reported in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1984, tests of T-lymphocyte subpopulations were done on 11 healthy adults before-and-after routine tetanus booster immunizations. Tests showed a significant though temporary drop in T-helper lymphocytes (a class of white blood cells which helps govern the immune system) in all of the subjects. Special concern rests in the fact that in 4 of the subjects the T-helper cells fell to levels found in active AIDS patients. (2) If this was the result of a single vaccine in healthy adults, it is sobering to think of the consequences of the multiple vaccines (twenty-one at last count) routinely given to infants with their immature systems during the first six months of life. However, we can only speculate as to the consequences, as this test has never been repeated.”

Eibl MM, Mannhalter JW, Zlabinger G.  Abnormal T-lymphocyte subpopulations in healthy subjects after tetanus booster immunization.N Engl J Med. 1984 Jan 19;310(3):198-9. No abstract available.PMID: 6228737 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Many parents have observed a decline in their children’s general health including increase susceptibility to infection following routine vaccinations.  It is possible that reduction of T-helper lymphocytes may contribute to this problem.  Depletion of the child’s vitamin C stores by the toxic constituents of the vaccine (microorganism(s), adjuvant, preservative etc) may also contribute to this problem.

Unfortunately, although Charlotte’s parents obviously mean well when they use their daughter’s experience to encourage other parents to vaccinate their children, the effect of following the Ministry of Health’s recommended vaccination programme may be to induce chronic illness in some unlucky vaccine recipients, rather than to promote health.

Moreover, parents who are convinced of the value of vaccines as disease-prevention tools, may be lulled into a false sense of security, believing that their children’s health is protected, and therefore fail to take more basic health-promoting measures such as ensuring that their children eat a sensible diet, and avoid additive laden junk food and other toxic exposures.  In North and South magazine, Charlotte is pictured eating two lurid green iceblocks and the text of the article describes her eating “pebbles” with relish, while a teenage girl with dyed red hair is pictured getting a Gardasil shot.  Many red hair dyes contain  synthetic pigments of the type that can increase breast cancer risk.

According to North and South magazine, when she was well enough, Charlotte’s parents had her vaccinated with the MeNZB vaccine in the hope that this would protect against another bout of meningococcal disease.

Charlotte’s parents would probably be shocked to learn that two children who participated in the New Zealand trials of this vaccine died.  This fact was uncovered by journalist  Barbara Sumner Burstyn and health policy analyst Ron Law.  One of the children was a baby whose death was attributed to SIDS, rather than vaccination.  (Personal communication from Ron Law)

Considering that apnoea is acknowledged by many vaccine manufacturers to occur (in some babies) following vaccination, and that if an apnoea episode lasts long enough, it will result in death, attributing the death of a vaccinated baby to SIDS appears to be a convenient cop out.  (For more information on vaccination, apnoea and other breathing disturbances in vaccinated infants, please visit the website of and type SIDS into the search engine.)

The other death occurred in an older child.  Ron Law did not recall the cause of death of this child.

There were also at least two deaths among MeNZB recipients once the vaccine was used in the general population. The Minutes of the 22nd meeting of the Medicines Adverse Reactions Committee, 9 June, 2005 yields the following information:

“ MeNZB and demyelination (64359)


“Members noted that this is the first of two reports of death in patients who had received the MeNZB vaccine in this quarter (see minute item

“Members reviewed the details of this case. It was noted that both the MeNZB Clinical Review Committee and the Independent Safety Monitoring Board (ISMB) extensively reviewed this case and determined that this event is unrelated to the MeNZB vaccine.

“The causal association for MeNZB vaccine was deemed to be ‘unlikely’ for demyelination. No further action was recommended at this time.

“See minute item 4.5 for general discussion on adverse reactions to the MeNZB vaccine to date.

“ MeNZB and pneumonia (64403)


“Members noted that this is the second of two reports of death in patients who had received the MeNZB vaccine in this quarter (see minute item

“Members noted that this patient had a long-standing medical condition, and died within four days of MeNZB vaccination. They noted that the post-mortem findings supported the pneumonic process. It was noted that both the MeNZB Clinical Review Committee and the ISMB extensively reviewed this case and determined that this event is unrelated to the MeNZB vaccine.

“The causal association for MeNZB vaccine was deemed to be ‘unlikely’ for pneumonia. No further action was recommended at this time.

“See minute item 4.5 for general discussion on adverse reactions to the MeNZB vaccine to date.”

Let’s consider the case of the MeNZB recipient who died from a demyelinating condition.  The Committee considers that this person’s death was “unlikely” to have been caused by the MeNZB vaccine.  However, vaccination in general is associated with demyelinating conditions in a small minority of recipients.  Guillane Barre Syndrome (GBS) which is associated with a wide variety of vaccines (including influenza vaccines) for example, is an demyelinating condition.

Moreover, animal research shows that chronic exposure to aluminium can cause demyelination.

The MeNZB vaccine contains aluminum hydroxide as an adjuvant.

There is evidence that when vaccines that contain aluminium are injected into the muscle of someone’s arm. The aluminium does not disappear but may be retained in the muscle tissue where it can cause prolonged activation of the immune system which in some cases may trigger demyelination.

It therefore seems peculiar that the Committee should find it “unlikely” that the MeNZB vaccine could be a possible trigger of demyelination.  In the absence of any other condition that might cause this condition, given the known potential of vaccines to trigger demyelination, a finding of “possible”, or even “probable” would seem more accurate.

In the case of the individual who developed pneumonia and died within four days of the vaccine, it also seems premature to dismiss the vaccine as having a significant role in the individual’s death.  Death just four days after vaccination is suspicious to, say the least. lf the deceased individual had been so sick that they were only days from death, vaccinating them would not only be medically contraindicated, but would also be a cruel and pointless exercise, which would only cause that unfortunate baby/child/teenager more suffering. However, if this chronically ill person were judged well enough to be vaccinated, as we must assume the vaccinator decided was the case, then his/her death four days later would appear to be vaccine-related.  Vaccination is a stress on the body and can deplete reserves of nutrients (such as vitamin C) that may be preventing a subclinical infection or chronic condition from becoming more serious or even lethal. This phenomenon was tragically illustrated in the experience of Dr Kalokineros, a GP working in the Australian outback who found that 50% of Aboriginal infants (who were often malnourished) died after routine vaccination.  He was able to reverse this horrendous death rate by administering  vitamin C injections to those infants who had collapsed after injection and subsequently wrote a book about his experience called “Every Second Child”.

In my opinion, deterioration of health and death in such as short time frame after vaccination should be considered “possible” at the very least, rather than “unlikely”.  However, the fact that the Medicines Adverse Reactions Committee classified each of these two post-MeNZB vaccination deaths as being “unlikely” means that the MeNZB vaccine appears blameless for these deaths, and the vaccine can be officially declare to be safe and effective, regardless of the fact that its use has been associated with several deaths.

The deaths discussed above may not be the only deaths linked to the MeNZB vaccine.

According to Jason Sanders, who contributed an article on the MeNZB vaccine to the first issue of Uncensored (Issue 1 Number 1 Spring 2005) a death occurred in a previously healthy toddler following MeNZB vaccination:

“There have been reports of a number of deaths associated with the [MeNZB] vaccine. I have endeavoured to follow up on them, requesting that my contact details be passed along the bereaved parents; however, to date I have not heard from them. I spoke to one woman who said she’d recently attended the funeral of a toddler who had apparently been healthy prior to receiving the vaccine. Two days after the MeNZB™ shot, the child was dead. The official cause of death was ‘pneumonia’.”

To the best of my knowledge none of the information materials produced by the the Ministry of Health for the public acknowledged any deaths among MeNZB trial participants, nor the deaths associated with the vaccine once it was marketed in New Zealand.  It appears that the Ministry of Health concealed the deaths so that parents who were concerned about their children’s health would not have full  information about the potential risks of the MeNZB vaccine available when they made the decision whether or not to allow their children to be vaccinated with the MeNZB vaccine.  This highly unethical decision is unfortunately typical of the Ministry of Health’s arrogance and its contempt for parents’ desire to make responsible, informed choices about their children’s health care.

Postscript: The MeNZB vaccine was phased out from the general NZ vaccination schedule in 2008  and is now unavailable as all the doses have expired.   (Meningococcal B disease cases had declined from 75% from their peak, even prior to the introduction of the vaccine.)

For readers who want to read more about the MeNZB vaccination campaign I highly recommend this series of articles by Barbara Sumner-Burstyn and Ron Law.

An overview of the history of the MeNZB campaign

The link below is particularly interesting since it relates to conflict of interest in the interest and the deception of cabinet ministers.

While this one (below) alleges breaches of ethics in the conduct of the MeNZB trials

This link (below) reveals that there were two deaths (of trial participants) during the trials of the MeNZB vaccine in NZ:

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