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You are here: MEDICA Portal. Part I: Vaccination. Infectious Disease.

The Controversial Prick (Part 2)

The Controversial Prick (Part 2)

Part 2: The Problem Kids Influenza and HPV

When considering the potency of vaccines, sometimes a lack of reliable data becomes evident. Stiko recommends a yearly immunisation against influenza in all people older than 60. However, a study that appeared in the Lancet showed that the benefit of an influenza vaccination in the elderly appears to be overrated. The vaccine does not significantly or only marginally protect the elderly from pneumonia - the main complication with influenza. A current publication from the Cochrane Collaboration systematically analysing past influenza immunisation studies indicated a similar tendency: It definitely makes sense to vaccinate seniors living in care homes against influenza, but the benefit for old people in the community was rather moderate.

Dieter Klenk from the Institute of Virology in Marburg, Germany still insists on an influenza vaccination. „Even though the amount of protection from this inoculation decreases when comparing old people to young ones“ - the immune system's ability to respond decreases -, the medic sees no reason to take a closer look and reconsider the state of affairs. Klenk stresses to continue immunising as was recommended so far. "Since the influenza vaccine is safe, we even benefit when the risk of suffering from pneumonia and death is decreased only slightly." The PEI agrees with this and considers a reassessment of the yearly influenza vaccination as not necessary.

The usefulness of HPV vaccination needs to be reconsidered

Since March 2007 the Stiko recommends a vaccination for all 12 to 17 year old girls in order to prevent cervical cancer. This now needs to be checked again regarding its efficiency. The Federal Joint Committee (GBA) summoned the Institute. A critical letter from 13 German scientists initiated the reassessment of the serum against Human Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). In November 2008, the experts expressed doubts on the efficiency and criticised the rather fast introduction of the vaccine - a drug hardly ever entered the market so quickly and also was so expensive.

„The guidelines of the official recommendations do have weak points“, Hartmann says. The Stiko recommended relatively submissively what is new. According to Hartmann this is the reason why citizens needed a detailed consultancy in order to resort to proper decision guidance. Which could also contain a danger: „If one really always explain the benefits and risks, the rate of the population getting inoculated would probably drop“, Hartmann points out. However, the majority needs to take part in immunisation programmes in order to wipe out highly infectious and dangerous infectious diseases. Hartmann gets his point across: "It is nonsense to flatly denounce vaccinations.“ However, a critical discussion about the impact and side-effects, benefits and efficiency of vaccines is a measure to reduce the uncertainty that lingers in Germany's population.

Wiebke Heiss/

- Part 1: The Controversial Prick
- Part 2: The Problem Kids Influenza and HPV


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