Measles is becoming a major problem again. In the first half of the year in Europe 41,000 people contracted measles and over 14 have died. In 2002 the USA declared itself to measles free but that sadly is no longer true. The vast majority of those infected in developed countries had never been vaccinated.
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man, it requires vaccination rates of 95% to contain it and create ‘herd immunity’ and prevent epidemics. A twenty year old fraudulent study by the British doctor Andrew Wakefield still holds enormous influence over the vaccination debate. This study, published in the Lancet, linked MMR to autism but the findings were widely rejected. The study was based on a tiny sample, other studies tried to replicate the results and failed. It was full of flaws and he had carried out unnecessary, invasive investigations on children and he had not disclosed large payments made to him by anti-vaccine lawyers. He was struck off and lost his license to practice in May 2010. Study after study has shown that there is no link between measles and autism yet it is still a commonly held belief by many and Andrew Wakefield is held up as a hero by the anti vaccine movement. He lives in a palatial home in the USA, is supported by Donald Trump and is dating the supermodel Elle Macpherson.
Russians, thought to be backed by President Vladimir Putin’s government have made use of social media to influence elections such as the US election and the Brexit vote and erode trust in US and European Governments by spreading “fake news”. Kremlin-sponsored social media accounts have promoted the discredited views of Andrew Wakefield to sow doubt in the West over the safety of vaccines. Russian government “trolls” voiced support for Vaxxed, a film made recently by Andrew Wakefield. One site claimed that three quarters of the children in a Mexican village had died as a result of vaccination.[An example of a pro Russia anti-vaccine site is https://prepareforchange.net/2016/03/05/putin-exposes-vaccines]
Infectious diseases were the most common cause of death 100 yrs ago. According to WHO and most experts, vaccinations have contributed more than even antibiotics to the amazing success in the fight against infectious diseases. When a small group of Spanish invaders arrived in South America they were able to conquer it because of the diseases they bought with them as the natives had no immunity. Measles and other viruses led to the death of an estimated 90% of the population of modern day Mexico!
Why do vaccines now cause so much uncertainty and parental angst? In part vaccinations have become a victim of their success. We have learnt not to fear diseases such as a polio and diptheria; they have become remote and ‘unlikely’. We are tantalising close to eradicating polio but smallpox is the only disease that has been truly eradicated world wide, probably because of compulsory vaccination. Italy and France recently made MMR compulsory to try and halt the rising incidence of measles; should we do so as well? What do you think?