The vaccine "may kill more children from other causes than it saves from diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis (whooping cough)", say researchers from the Bandim health project, which had carried out a public health experiment on 1,057 children, aged from three to five months, from 1981 in Guinea-Bissau. Around 55 per cent had been given the DTP vaccine.
Weight and nutritional status were similar between the vaccinated and non-vaccinated groups—if anything, the vaccinated were in better health—and yet the vaccinated were five times more likely to die from any cause. The risk reduced if the child had been given the oral polio vaccine as well.
The Bandim project had been set up to investigate why there was a high mortality rate among children in the region—but the researchers discovered that vaccines raised the risk even further.
"Though a vaccine protects children against the target disease, it may simultaneously increase susceptibility to unrelated infections," said research team leader Sorel Mogensen.