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The Vaccine Experiment

Production year: 2006 | 1*50 | Genres: Current Affairs
For the Common Good
Origin country: Norway
Production company: TV2 AS (Norway)
Original title: Vaksine-eksprimentet
Original language: Norwegian
Formats: SD

How could an unsuccessful vaccine against Meningitis B, developed in Norway, end up being exported and used on 1,1 million babies in New Zealand? The documentary sheds light on a vaccine developed by the Norwegian health authorities against Meningitis- B during the early 1980’s.

The vaccine against Meningitis B, a disease responsible for 30 deaths a year in Norway, was tested on 180 000 Norwegian junior school pupils in a trial that lasted from 1988 to 1991.  In the trial, the pupils were given scant information. The little information they were given assured them that the vaccine was safe, and that it was unlikely that it would have any serious side-effects. However, a formal investigation commissioned by the Norwegian parliament concluded that serious side-effects could not be ruled out, and that the trial should be monitored closely for side effects.
In all, 512 cases of side-effects were reported, of which 14 were serious. Of these, 5 were neurological illnesses. 10 cases were concluded to be serious effects caused directly by the vaccine, one of which was a serious neurological illness.

The trial results on the protection the vaccine actually afforded against Meningitis B were also disappointing. Normally, a protection rate of 80-90% is required for approval for the production of a vaccine. This vaccine had a protection rate of 57 %, which was not enough for it to be included in the normal national vaccine programme.

The Norwegian Meningitis B vaccine was never introduced in Norway. Instead, it was exported to New Zealand.  The nature and make-up of the New Zealand population is not unlike that of Norway, and so in 2001, the vaccine was exported to be used on infants on the other side of the world. This was to be a massive vaccine experiment.

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