The Anti-Vaccine Movement.
As featured in Aspire Magazine, May 2019.
The debate over vaccines has hit a fever pitch once again and officials are sounding the alarm. The increase in outbreaks across the US has seen some states issue a $500 fine or 6 month jail sentence for not vaccinating children. In one New York County, unvaccinated children are banned from public places. In Italy, parents are fined if children are sent to school unvaccinated. Here in the UK, the government are moving to enforce a ban on all anti-vaccine posts on social media. Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said anti-vaccine posts could fall under the same rules designed to fight material promoting suicide, self-harm and terrorism.
The needle points back to 1998, when Andrew Wakefield co-authored a case series in ‘The Lancet’, suggesting the MMR vaccine (which protects against measles, mumps and rubella) could be giving children developmental disorders, such as autism. Despite the tiny sample size, speculative nature of the findings and the fact that nobody else could reproduce his findings, the paper received wide publicity, sparking a fear in many and causing a decrease in MMR vaccination rates. In 2010 Wakefield’s paper was completely retracted on grounds of ethical violations and scientific misrepresentation. His licence to practice medicine has since been revoked and the paper is likely to go down as one of the most serious frauds in medical history, but the damage is already done. 20+ years on and many parents across the world choose not to vaccinate their children out of fear of the risk of autism.
The World Health Organisation reported that people who choose not to vaccinate are considered a global health threat. Measles is so contagious that 90% of unvaccinated people exposed will get the virus, which can linger in the air for up to 2 hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus spreads through the body for days, both before and after symptoms appear. Measles can lead to severe complications. For every 1000 people with measles 1-3 will suffer from complications. These can include pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Such complications can be fatal. Mumps also leads to severe complications, such as meningitis, pancreatitis and infertility. Anti-vaxxers are opening the door for measles, mumps, rubella and other old time diseases.
Dr Ranj, a regular guest on ITV’s This Morning, spoke to viewers about the importance of vaccinating children. When asked about the Wakefield study, he said: “There were only six children involved in that study! Millions of children have been studied since Wakefield’s fraudulent paper was released and there is no link to autism. Anti Vax information is the new fake news - parents must be vigilant and do their own research, being careful where they get their information from. The NHS website is great and the Oxford Vaccines website has a lot more detailed information.”
Vaccines are proven to be the safest and most effective way to protect everyone. If you make a choice not to vaccinate your child, you're not just risking their health, you're risking the health and lives of everyone they come into contact with.
As I'm not a parent, I cannot fully understand the fear of injecting your baby with something you don't know everything about. However, in my opinion, even if there was the tiniest risk the vaccine may cause autism, a child with autism is still a healthy, living child. For me, that tiny risk would be worth it.
Aspire's May issue can be viewed in full at www.aspire-mag.co.uk
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