Vaccination Failure in La Paz

“100 years from now we will know that the biggest crime against humanity was vaccines.” Guylaine Lanctot, MD

As previously stated in the newsletter Vaccination Controversy: What is Fact and What is Myth?, vaccination requirements in the U.S. are much more extensive than in Bolivia, so there is a much higher likelihood of adverse side effects in the former, and indeed many horror stories be found on the Internet (1).

Last week the horror moved uncomfortably close as a 3-year old girl from the French School in La Paz died from meningitis caused by the bacteria “Hemophilius Influenzae type B” (Hib) against which she and all her classmates had been vaccinated when they were babies as part of the standard vaccination program in Bolivia, and because it is a requirement for acceptance at the French School.

Thus, a vaccinated girl in a 100% vaccinated population, not only contracted the disease she was vaccinated against, but she died from it, and she died so rapidly that the doctors did not have any chance at all to save her (she entered into coma within 20 hours of the first symptoms of a mild influenza, without showing the usual signs of meningitis – stiff neck, high fever, drowsiness – that would have prompted immediate treatment with antibiotics).

The panel of doctors who were assembled to calm down the very nervous parents at the French School could not convincingly explain how this could happen. They said that she must have been the 1 in 1,000,000 where the vaccine does not work, and in addition she must have had a defective immune system.

I cannot help suspect that it was the vaccine itself that affected her immune system, and that if she had not been vaccinated, she might just have suffered a week of influenza, with no permanent damage. Hib is a bacteria that is commonly present in nose and throat, but occasionally can spread into the blood-system and cause severe damage. But even if an unvaccinated child contracts meningitis due to an invasive Hib bacteria, the mortality rate is limited to 2-5%, as the infection usually can be treated by antibiotics (2).

Also, I don’t believe the 1 in 1,000,000 figure that those doctors in the panel mentioned (even in writing). No research has been carried out in Bolivia to show the effectiveness and risks associated with the different vaccines, so that number could at most come from the U.S, for which some numbers do exist (3). But more likely it comes out of thin air.

We urgently need some serious research and information on the risks and benefits of the different vaccines in Bolivia. In the US it has been calculated that the chances of a serious adverse reaction (death, paralysis, permanent brain damage, etc) to the DPT vaccine (part of the pentavalente vaccine that is given in Bolivia) is one in 1750. In contrast, the chances of dying from Pertussis (the P in DPT) are one in several million (4). The same with Diphteria (the D in DPT), where only 7 cases (not deaths) were reported during 1998-2004 in a population of close to 300 million (5). Tetanus is the most frequent, with about 1-2 cases (not deaths) in a million inhabitants per year (6).

I think these are lousy odds, especially considering that it is not money but our children’s lives we are gambling with.

It may be OK to sacrifice one child to save a thousand, but to sacrifice a thousand to save one seems like a very strange policy indeed.

Know of any other examples of vaccination failures? Leave a reply below. 

(*) Director, Institute for Advanced Development Studies, La Paz, Bolivia. The author happily receives comments at the following e-mail:

(1) See, for example: 1) , and 2) . There are also horror stories about children who have suffered due to lack of vaccinations, however: .
(2) .
(3) says that 2 or 3 doses will protect more than 95% of children.
(4) See introductory paragraph of “Dispelling Vaccination Myths” by Alan Philips.
(5) .
(6) .



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