Here’s a scary fact: measles seems to be returning to the West. There has been a rise in the number of outbreaks in the last few years, including in Canada: Quebec and recently in London, Ontario. According to the Middlesex-London Health Unit, there have been recent outbreaks of both measles and mumps in many countries, including, “US states (including New York), United Kingdom, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, France, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey, Peru, Guatemala, Congo, Zambia, Bangladesh and India.”
So why are these diseases coming back?
It seems it’s not because science has failed us. It’s not because the diseases are evolving resistance and spreading beyond the reach of our immunizations. Immunization programs have been proven to work to prevent their spread.
They’re coming back because some dim-witted parents and religious groups have decided that vaccinations aren’t necessary or are dangerous. And these muddle-headed, wrong-thinking people are endangering everyone else. They are violating the herd protection defence that vaccination had raised.
Why? In part, I blame the gullibility of people to believe anything they read online, but there are other suggestions as to why people chose such a disastrous, self-destructive and antisocial path. As The Pediatric Insider notes,
Along with clean food and water, vaccinations are generally accepted as one of the greatest public health triumphs of the modern world. We are safe from diseases like polio and measles, which once ravaged millions. We no longer, really, have to worry about most kinds of bacterial meningitis, and we’re able to even prevent some kinds of cancer. Newer vaccines in development include protection against HIV and malaria. At the same time, immunizations are very safe, compared to just about any other medicine or medical intervention. Yet despite their incredible effectiveness and well-documented safety, suspicions remain. Many families choose to skip some or all vaccinations.
There should be no doubt that vaccines are very effective at preventing diseases, and are still necessary to prevent serious illnesses. Just one recent example: a study published in May, 2009 showed that unvaccinated kids were 23 times more likely to contract whooping cough than children who were fully vaccinated. Do not doubt that the diseases that are prevented by vaccines are themselves quite serious and sometimes deadly.
The author writes further that the main reasons people choose not to vaccinate their children is that they distrust the government, science, pharmaceutical corporations or all three. That generally puts vaccination-refusers (aka vaccination-dodgers) on the same intellectual level as those who believe the 9/11 attacks were done by the US government, that NASA was hiding a face on Mars, and that angels protect us.
He also blames “Dr. Google” and “natural” or “alternative” remedy practitioners. These two have helped perpetuate many myths and misconceptions about science and medicine, including offering ineffective alternative preventions and cures. A lot of what goes unchallenged on the Net is simply bunk: but some of what passes off as “medicine” is downright dangerous, not to mention stupid. pseudoscience and superstition haves proliferated on the Web. It’s frustrating that so many people will take the word of an astrologer or self-described “psychic” before they take that of a researcher, doctor or scientist.
Some parents still cling stubbornly to the now-debunked hypothetical link between vaccinations and autism. It must be a government conspiracy because no matter how many times this link is disproven, there seems to be someone willing to revile the debunker (like Canadian actor Jim Carey did -it’s a sad state we’ve fallen to when people will heed the words of an ill-informed actor or a media idol over a scientist who spent years on the research). These myths are memes, not science.
I read one wild, unsubstantiated claim online that, “All vaccines are biological weapons that weaken or destroy the human immune system. They often fail to protect against diseases they’re designed to prevent and often cause them. The H1N1 vaccine is experimental, untested, toxic, extremely dangerous, and essential to avoid even if mandated.” What claptrap. Yet because there is nothing on the site to indicate this is an uninformed opinion, readers who lack critical thinking skills have no way to identify it as nonsense.
According the this article on The Inquisitr.com,
The World Health Organization reports that as of October, there have been 26,000 measles cases, and nine deaths, in Europe in 2011. That is three times as many cases during the same time period in 2007.
The United States – where vaccines are mandatory – had 205 cases of measles in 2011, more than any it reported in the previous decade. Normally the USA reports about 50 cases a year. The rest appear linked to visits to or visitors from overseas. Last May, health officials warned travellers to get vaccinated before flying overseas. As one doctor commented, “Air travel has extended the range of diseases from countries where people aren’t immunized. We’re no more than one airplane ride from being exposed to many diseases.”
As the Ontario Ministry of Health says,
The vaccine protects about 99 per cent of those who get both needles against measles. It protects 95 per cent of people against mumps and about 98 per cent of people against rubella. Protection from measles, mumps and rubella after getting the vaccine is probably life-long. Vaccination also makes these diseases milder for those who may catch them.
Here’s a list of common myths about vaccinations. Give it a read. And please, if you’re one of the vaccine-deniers, do some research and read the science, not just the superstition and pseudoscience.