WHO recently reviewed the possible non-specific effects of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine. The results were considered inconsistent though most studies suggested deleterious effects. We examined whether inconsistencies in results reflected differences in effect of DTP or differences in the methodology used in different studies.
If children remain unvaccinated because they are frail or if children (including dead ones) with no information on vaccination status are classified as ‘unvaccinated’, the mortality rate becomes unnaturally high among ‘unvaccinated’ controls. To measure this bias, we defined the “bias index” as the mortality rate ratio (MRR) between unvaccinated and vaccinated children.
Five studies had frail or poorly defined control groups and survival bias, the bias index being 2.0-8.0; in these studies DTP was associated with a MRR of 0.39 (0.18-0.83). Eight studies determined ‘unvaccinated’ by vaccination card and the bias index was 0.5-1.7; in these studies DTP was associated with a MRR of 2.00 (1.50-2.67).
The observed inconsistencies in results were due to methodologic differences between studies. Bias does not seem to explain why DTP is associated with higher mortality.
Authors:Aaby P1, Ravn H, Benn CS.
Journal:Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2016