By Katherine Smith (Associate Editor, UNCENSORED Magazine)

The Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) which describes itself as a source of independent and scientific advice about vaccination for the NZ government as well as media and public and is "based at the University of Auckland".

Its spokesperson, Dr Nikki Turner, is frequently asked to comment on issues related to vaccination in mainstream media.

Her advice is sought and widely broadcast on vaccines from the MMR and the MeNZB vaccines to, more recently, the controversial HPV vaccine "Gardasil".

According to IMAC's website:

"Our aim is to provide New Zealanders with a local source of independent, factual information including benefits and risks regarding immunisation, and vaccine-preventable disease. The information we provide is based on international and New Zealand medical research and is supported by a large network of health professionals."

However, IMAC may not be the independent organisation that it would have you believe.

One of its major sponsors is the Ministry of Health an ostensibly "public good" source of funding.

However, the other major sponsors that IMAC acknowledges on its website are: CSL Biotherapies; GlaxoSmithKline; Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD); Sanofi Aventis and Wyeth Vaccines.



All of these companies are directly involved in the manufacture and distribution of vaccines.

With this in mind, how can we be assured that IMAC, and by inference, the NZ Ministry of Health, is being objective in recommending the various vaccines they do? What role, if any, does vaccine manufacturer sponsorship have in influencing Dr Turner and others at IMAC to play down the risks and indeed the often reported side effects of the vaccines in question?

Recently Nikki Turner appeared on TV, defending the HPV vaccine "Gardasil", despite the death of 18 year old New Zealander Jasmine Renata, who developed symptoms consistent with neurological disease following vaccination with "Gardasil" and died in her sleep in September 2009. [refs]

Gardasil is manufactured by Merck.

Think about who sponsors IMAC if you read the information intended for parents about measles on IMAC's website that categorically denies any connection between the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine and autism.

Here is the quote:"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.)

The MMR vaccine used in NZ is manufactured by Merck.

NB: To read some of the scientific evidence linking the MMR to the development of autism in previously healthy children who were developing normally prior to being vaccinated with the MMR, go here:  (Search "PMID": 12145534)

Think about who sponsors IMAC if you read the section for parents about Pneumococcal disease on IMAC's website

and read:

"Is the vaccine safe? No serious reactions have been associated with pneumococcal vaccines."

While 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 a very serious reaction to a vaccine, wouldn't you?

IMAC obviously disagrees.

Think about who sponsors IMAC when you read the following link at which Nikki Turner dismisses any link between influenza vaccination and miscarriage as coincidental, even though a top Chinese infectious disease specialist recommended against pregnant women being vaccinated during the first trimester due to stillbirths in recently-vaccinated pregnant women in Hong Kong.

(The pregnant women in Hong Kong are not the only ones who have experienced stillbirth or miscarriage following influenza vaccination as the stories on the following links indicate:)

Unfortunately, none of the influenza vaccines on the NZ market appear to have been tested in clinical trials to ascertain how safe (or unsafe) they may be in pregnancy, so the risks of influenza vaccines are impossible to quantify. For example:

"The safety of CELVAPAN [a single antigen A/H1N1 influenza vaccine] in pregnancy and lactation has not been assessed in

clinical trials."

For the seasonal flu vaccine "Intanza" the manufacturer admits: "no clinical data on exposed pregnancies are available"

The seasonal flu vaccine "Influvac" has not even been tested in pregnant animals, so it could be a mistake to assume that it is safe for use during pregnancy.

According to the manufacturer of another seasonal flu vaccine, Vaxigrip:

"Safety of use during pregnancy has not been established."

The manufacturer of "Fluvax" surprisingly recommends its product during pregnancy even though it is categorised as a "B2" medication; essentially meaning that its safety in pregnancy is unproven.

(The definition of the category "B2" is:

"Drugs which have been taken by only a limited number of pregnant women and women of childbearing age, without an increase in the frequency of malformation or other direct or indirect harmful effects on the human fetus having been observed. Studies in animals are inadequate or may be lacking, but available data show no evidence of an increased occurrence of fetal damage".)

IMAC does not mention the fact that there have not been clinical trials of the influenza vaccines on the NZ market in pregnant women on the relevant page of its website.

In NZ, the subsidisation of influenza vaccines has recently been expanded. In previous years influenza vaccines were subsidised only for people over the age of sixty-five years and those with chronic illnesses. For 2010, pregnant women can now receive the vaccine "free" (with taxpayer dollars, of course). About 60,000 babies are born in NZ each year, so this means that there are potentially 60,000 more doses of influenza vaccine that could be sold to the government for injection into expectant mothers.

Moreover, influenza vaccination is now "free" for some babies and children aged 6 months to five years. Maori, Pasifika and children from low income families will be offered the vaccine. About twenty percent of the NZ childhood population is estimated to live in poverty, and around 60,000 babies are born each year. This means that there will be about 270,000 children in NZ between the age of six months and five years. Targeting at least twenty percent of these children for influenza vaccination could mean manufacturers could benefit from the sales of influenza vaccine for another 54,000 people. It is recommended that children get two doses of influenza vaccine so this could easily amount to more than 100,000 extra influenza vaccine sales.

The Ministry of Health has endorsed all of the influenza vaccines on the NZ market for use in babies and children, despite the fact that one of them "Intanza" is "not recommended" for people below the age of 18 "due to insufficient data on safety and efficacy".

You might expect IMAC as a source of "independent advice" to make some effort to communicate this fact to parents and health professionals who might not bother to read the datasheet, given the Ministry of Health blanket endorsement of all influenza vaccines. However, IMAC has been strangely silent on this issue.

These are the brands of seasonal (trivalent) influenza vaccine on the NZ market:

"Intanza" is manufactured Sanofi Pasteur and distributed in NZ by Sanofi Aventis (NZ) Ltd

"Fluarix" is distributed in NZ by GlaxoSmithKline.

"Vaxigrip" is manufactured Sanofi Pasteur SA (France)and distributed in NZ by Sanofi Aventis (NZ) Ltd

"Fluvax" is manufactured by CSL Ltd (Australia) and CSL Biotherapies (New Zealand) Limited?

"Vaxigrip" is manufactured by Solvay Pharmaceuticals and distributed by Pharmacy Retailing (NZ) Led (trading as Healthcare Logistics)

If you think that the names Sanofi Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline and CSL Biotherapies Ltd sound awfully familiar it's because they're IMAC's best buddies.

He who pays the piper is still calling the tune.

Don't the people and the health practitioners of New Zealand deserve to have the truth about the vaccines we're buying with our tax dollars?