Experts are convinced that the introduction of routine vaccination against pneumococcus should be implemented. According to a recent analysis by Infopharm, the long term benefit from this kind of vaccination would outweigh the expenses with the ratio of 2:1.
A seminar initiated by the Nahlas public foundation was focused on the future of vaccination policy in the Czech Republic. It was attended by the representatives of companies operating in this field, MPs, senators and the media. The seminar was held in the parliament on November 20. On the very same day, the international Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) project was introduced, with one of its important objectives being to convince politicians and the state administration to provide access to new, life-saving vaccines. In the Czech Republic, 9 organizations of CLS JEP have already joined PACE’s Call to Action.
Pneumococcal diseases kill 1.6 million people yearly. Fifty percent of these cases are children below five years of age. This March, the WHO published a recommendation for the introduction of routine vaccination against pneumococcus for children below 5. Currently, the 10- and 13- valent conjugated vaccines against pneumococcus are in the late stages of development. These vaccines are expected to prevent 50 to 80% of all pneumococcal diseases worldwide.
Vaccination against pnuemococcal disease has already been introduced in 16 EU member countries. The Czech Republic is currently considering routine vaccination. The earliest possible date for the implementation of routine vaccination in our country is January 1st 2009. 7-valent conjugated vaccine Prevenar is currently available on the Czech market, which has been applied in 3-4 thousand people at risk. For parents of children outside of risk groups, they will have to cover the expenses themselves (with the option of getting a CZK1000- contribution from the Health Insurance Company) if they want to have their child vaccinated. The price of vaccination in the 2+1 or 3+1 scheme is about CZK 5–7 thousand.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Ministry of Health, who are considering the introduction of routine vaccination of children against pneumococcus,” MUDr. Pavla Krížová, CSc., the chairman of the Association for Epidemiology and Microbiology of CLS JEP said. “Pneumococcal diseases are the most dangerous contagious diseases worldwide, killing more children than AIDS, malaria and measles together.”
Although the seminar was devoted to the possibility of routine vaccination against pneumococcal diseases, the discussion repeatedly led to the question of pneumococcal vaccination being compulsory or voluntary due to the presence of opponents of compulsory vaccination. At times, it was even led to the exchange of arguments between the Nahlas and Rozalio foundations.
The former was established as a reaction to insufficient awareness of pneumococcal infection. “Our youngest son went deaf as a result of pneumococcal meningitis,” the founder Rudolf Kalovský said. “Based on our experience, we not only try to provide parents with information about the options of vaccination, but also to support the discussion between experts and the government and to assert the idea of routine vaccination.”
On the other hand, the Rozalio group is against the implementation of compulsory vaccination. It has recently organized a lecture by a controversial scientist (paleontologist) Viera Scheibnerová, who labeled the vaccination as “ineffective and unambiguously harmful, with negative impact on immunity and supporting the occurrence of allergy, asthma and autoimmune diseases, such as leukemia, diabetes, and cancer.” She also labeled it as the main initiator of child diabetes, allergies and autism.
“We are concerned that the media does not mention the side effects of vaccination and that brochures and information about side effects are not available to parents,” said Jan Třasák, the representative of Rozalia. She assured the audience by stating that they are not against vaccination, they just call for public discussion of the issue. To the question why Mrs. Schneiberová was invited to the Czech Republic, Jan Třasák replied, “We wanted someone whose opinion is different and who is willing to speak not only about the advantages, but also the side effects of vaccination. Yet, we could not find anyone like this among the Czech experts.” Rozalia also keeps in mind the fact that the children are vaccinated at a very young age, which is a problem because this makes it hardly possible to estimate whether or not there is any negative influence of vaccination.
Jana Třasák’s theses have been commented on with disapproval by medical experts. MUDr. Vilma Maresová, CSc. strongly reminded the audience that while the risk of infectious complications, for instance in those persons not vaccinated against measles, ranges at 1:1000, while the probability of vaccination complications is 1: 1,000,000. To Třasák’s question - what kind of fund would the money for post vaccination complications come from (alluding to the fact that his son allegedly suffers from allergy and limited immunity as a result of vaccination) – the associate professor Marešová reacted by a counter question, “And who would refund the state if the non- vaccinated child falls ill with meningitis?“ MUDr. Krížová suggested the idea of letting the parents, who refuse to have their children vaccinated, sign the informed approval obliging them to bear the weight of possible consequences.
The importance of collective immunity was brought up by the chief hygienist of the Czech Republic, MUDr. Michael Vít, Ph.D. Showing disappointment, he pointed out that the primary reason of vaccination had been forgotten. He refuted the view of supporters of voluntary vaccination, stating, “Our society is not sufficiently educated to be able to make the right decision about voluntary vaccination.” He mentioned that, for example, hepatitis B, which is not common in children, results in liver tumor in 4% of cases. ”In January 2008 two thousand people will die in vain, who could have received the vaccination against flu.”
MUDr. Vít said. MUDr. Hana Cabrnochová, the chief of the Specialist Association of Pediatric Practitioners of CLS JEP, outlined another argument against the opponents of compulsory vaccination. “It isn’t true, as I often hear, that the higher number of vaccinations place any stress on the immunity system. Since 1960, the amount of antigens in vaccines has been reduced significantly. In the case of substance against perfusion, it has been decreased from 3000 to 3-5.” She complained that campaigns abroad initiated by the socalled experts are discussed repeatedly. “Three years ago, it was the Paracelsus group, who stood up against vaccination. The negotiations ended up at the governmental office, with the human rights supporter. The decision to sustain compulsory vaccination, however, remained unambiguous. They were voices of older people, who experienced the outbreaks of tetanus, polio, diphtheria.
The head of the Czech Pediatric Association, doc. MUDr. Jozef Hoza, CSc., concluded, “It is important to see the good for the majority, and this is what vaccination definitely is.”