Sick and tired of anti-vaxxers

The mod­ern-day equiv­a­lent of flat earth­ers, they deny ob­vi­ous re­al­ity be­cause it fits their dis­torted world view

Financial Mail - - PATTERN RECOGNITION - @shap­shak

Most of the 89,780 peo­ple who died of measles glob­ally last year were chil­dren un­der the age of five, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“Measles is one of the lead­ing causes of death among young chil­dren even though a safe and cost-ef­fec­tive vac­cine is avail­able,” the med­i­cal body says in a fact sheet. “Measles is a highly con­ta­gious, se­ri­ous dis­ease caused by a virus. Be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of [the] measles vac­cine in 1963 and wide­spread vac­ci­na­tion, ma­jor epi­demics oc­curred ev­ery two to three years and measles caused an es­ti­mated 2.6m deaths each year.”

Why, then, would a sane, ra­tio­nal par­ent will­ingly choose to ig­nore the ad­vice to vac­ci­nate, thereby po­ten­tially ex­pos­ing his or her child to a dis­ease that is “one of the lead­ing causes of death among young chil­dren”?

And in do­ing this, they po­ten­tially ex­pose other chil­dren. The measles vac­cine regime works be­cause of “herd im­mu­nity”. If ev­ery­one does it, no child has to die when a “safe and cost-ef­fec­tive vac­cine is avail­able”.

The kind of anti-sci­en­tific drivel that em­bold­ens the so-called an­ti­vaxx move­ment is all over the In­ter­net. It’s not on the pages of re­spected ti­tles such as Na­ture but on no-name web­sites that patently pur­vey what we now know as “fake news”.

The un­for­tu­nate part is that this long-dis­cred­ited the­sis ap­peared in The Lancet in 1998, au­thored by the now dis­graced for­mer doc­tor An­drew Wake­field. He was struck from the UK’S med­i­cal reg­istry af­ter it was dis­cov­ered his pa­per link­ing the measles, mumps and rubella vac­cine with autism was “ut­terly false”, as the jour­nal called it in a re­trac­tion, say­ing it had been “de­ceived” by him.

The dam­age he has done is not in­sub­stan­tial. Anti-vaxxers are mod­ern-day flat earth­ers who deny ob­vi­ous re­al­ity be­cause it fits their dis­torted world view to do so. Decades of peer-re­viewed re­search has failed to find a plau­si­ble link be­tween vac­cines and autism or auto-im­mune dis­eases.

But the So­mali com­mu­nity in Min­nesota was hood­winked into be­liev­ing this by anti-vaxxers, who con­vinced them their high in­ci­dence of autism was linked to vac­cines and there­fore to stop in­oc­u­la­tions. The re­sult is a measles out­break that is the largest in that state in nearly 30 years.

In an elo­quent es­say called “Five Vac­cine Myths De­bunked”, doc­tors Matthew Fala­gas and Ge­or­gia Vatheia state the blind­ingly ob­vi­ous rea­son that vac­cines work: “It is un­ap­pre­ci­ated by the pub­lic and sci­en­tists that herd im­mu­nity pro­tects vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion groups that can­not re­ceive com­plete vac­ci­na­tion from po­ten­tially se­vere, life-threat­en­ing ill­nesses, by re­duc­ing the prob­a­bil­ity of trans­mis­sion of in­fec­tious dis­eases from other mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.”

Sim­ply put: you vac­ci­nate your chil­dren not only to pro­tect them but to pro­tect all chil­dren.

It’s one of the few times a herd men­tal­ity is a good thing.

The kind of anti-sci­en­tific drivel that em­bold­ens the anti-vaxx move­ment is all over the In­ter­net

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.