Pae­di­a­tri­cians need to be­gin to re­serve the right not to treat unvaccinated chil­dren and schools should pub­lish the num­bers of en­rolled and unvaccinated chil­dren, writes OMESHNIE NAIDOO

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE -

de­scribed by The Wash­ing­ton Post as a lead­ing pro­po­nent of con­spir­acy the­o­ries about vac­cines, some­one who holds a law, not a med­i­cal de­gree.

The old de­bunked the­o­ries con­tinue to dog so­ci­ety, and lower num­bers of vac­ci­na­tions are be­ing re­ported around the globe. In places such as Texas, tens of thou­sands of chil­dren are go­ing without vac­cines, a 20-fold in­crease since 2003 ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post.

A re­cent Reuters re­port la­belled France – birth­place of im­munol­ogy pi­o­neer Louis Pas­teur – among the least con­fi­dent na­tions in the world of vac­cine safety, with 41% of those sur­veyed dis­agree­ing that vac­cines are safe.

This in­creases the risk of chil­dren dy­ing from pre­ventable ill­nesses such as chick­en­pox and measles – all while or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the UN Chil­dren’s Fund (Unicef) and the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Who) are con­stantly work­ing to cut high costs of vac­cines and dis­trib­ute them in coun­tries where chil­dren – and adults – are dy­ing un­nec­es­sar­ily.

Last year Unicef an­nounced the pro­cure­ment of a 16-year deal to pro­vide a com­bined vac­cine against five deadly child­hood dis­eases for half the price it cur­rently pays. An es­ti­mated 5.7 mil­lion deaths a year could be averted un­der the deal to send 450 mil­lion doses to 80 coun­tries from this year un­til 2020, they said.

The vac­cine, a cor­ner­stone of rou­tine im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­grammes, will pro­tect chil­dren from five ma­jor in­fec­tions in one shot: diph­the­ria, tetanus, per­tus­sis, hepati­tis B, and haemophilus in­fluenza type B (Hib).

The South African govern­ment of­ten runs cam­paigns along with roll-outs. Late last year the fo­cus was on po­lio, vi­ta­min A sup­ple­ments and meben­da­zole de­worm­ing. The aim of the cam­paign is to in­crease pop­u­la­tion im­mu­nity against po­lio, a po­ten­tially deadly ill­ness.

Po­lio is highly in­fec­tious and mainly af­fects chil­dren un­der 3. The po­lio virus is ex­creted in stools and spreads rapidly. One in ev­ery 200 chil­dren in­fected be­comes paral­ysed, and any in­fected child can in­fect other chil­dren. There is no cure for po­lio, there­fore vac­ci­na­tion against this dis­ease is im­per­a­tive.

And still I take my child to a birth­day party on the Berea and meet a mom who tells me sheep­ishly that she doesn’t be­lieve in vac­ci­nat­ing her kids.

A young niece of mine and most of her class had chick­en­pox last year.

For a long time most of the fairly de­vel­oped world was rou­tinely vac­ci­nated. To the ex­tent that in De­cem­ber when my baby fell ill we went through two cour­ses of an­tibi­otics to no avail, and nearly on to a third, to dis­cover after a num­ber of days the tell­tale bumps be­hind my son’s ears, that more than likely in­di­cated mumps.

None of us at home on ei­ther side of the family had ever had it and we failed to recog­nise the symp­toms. Our pe­di­a­tri­cian told us tests to con­firm would not be very con­clu­sive and iso­la­tion and care was all we could re­ally of­fer.

It was a chance to be re­galed with tales of mumps – one par­ent said she lost the hear­ing in one ear after a bout of the dis­ease. For boys and men, mumps can have se­ri­ous but rare com­pli­ca­tions, such as an in­flam­ma­tory con­di­tion called or­chi­tis that can cause swelling in one or both tes­ti­cles.

My other child is a preschooler and I learnt via the grapevine of at least two other chick­en­pox in­ci­dents bad enough to have the en­tire class sent home.

Vac­ci­na­tions were al­ways a so­cio-eco­nomic is­sue, with those in poverty-stricken re­gions of­ten dy­ing of en­tirely pre­ventable dis­eases, while the rest of us used govern­ment fa­cil­i­ties or forked out to pro­tect our fam­i­lies.

These days the most af­flu­ent fam­i­lies feel that what is for the masses is not for them. Now thanks to Trump and the like, a sim­ple pre­ven­ta­tive med­i­cal ad­vance­ment is a con­vo­luted con­spir­acy the­ory.

Vac­cines aren’t guar­an­teed to work and the rare child will re­act, but herd im­mu­nity and rou­tine in­oc­u­la­tions will of­fer con­trol.

A few years ago I met Jodi Pi­coult, one of the world’s most pro­lific best-sell­ing au­thors.

She was in Dur­ban and had just writ­ten House Rules, a novel that piv­oted on autism.

She was in­tel­li­gent, elo­quent and her ar­gu­ments were com­pelling. It was the first time I had heard about moms claim­ing to have had “nor­mal ba­bies” who, after vac­cines, be­came autis­tic. A seed had been sown.

Years later my own child, after a vac­ci­na­tion, swelled at the point of the jab, ran a fever and broke out in bumps, and in his weak state I be­gan to see the non-re­spon­sive traits I’d heard of in autism.

It was a lonely fear­ful mo­ment and time seemed to stand still for us. No one had an­swers for me. He wasn’t old enough to speak and I won­dered if he ever would.

I was told days later that there were no other prob­lems with ‘the batch’, and that as he had been born two weeks pre­ma­ture, he should have been vac­ci­nated two weeks after the rec­om­mended time. He got bet­ter. Ad­verse re­ac­tions are rare. Yes, some chil­dren do re­act to vac­cines. It’s a re­al­ity.

But his­tory proves that vac­cines can save lives.

Chil­dren who can­not be vac­ci­nated will be pro­tected by the herd and when a crit­i­cal por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion is vac­ci­nated it is un­likely that an out­break will oc­cur.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pae­di­atrics con­ducted 40 stud­ies that showed no links be­tween autism and vac­cines.

This was after the An­drew Wake­field scan­dal.

In 1998 The Lancet pub­lished Wake­field’s re­search pa­per sug­gest­ing the com­bined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vac­cine was linked to col­i­tis and autism spec­trum dis­or­ders.

It was a jour­nal­ist who ex­posed his mul­ti­ple un­de­clared con­flicts of in­ter­est and the pa­per was later re­tracted.

Wake­field was found guilty by the Gen­eral Med­i­cal Coun­cil of se­ri­ous pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct in May 2010 and could no longer prac­tise as a doc­tor in the UK.

Of course the dam­age had been done, with what has been de­scribed as “per­haps the most dam­ag­ing med­i­cal hoax of the past 100 years”.

Since then it’s been more con­spir­acy than com­mon sense.

What I know as the mother of two young chil­dren is that they are more at risk of harm without the vac­cine than with it.

It’s not a chance I’m will­ing to take – it’s a de­ci­sion based on sci­en­tific fact.

A grow­ing ‘trend’ not to vac­ci­nate chil­dren could cause harm­ful out­breaks, such as po­lio – a highly in­fec­tious dis­ease that mainly af­fects chil­dren un­der 3 years of age. The po­lio virus is ex­creted in stools and spreads rapidly from one per­son to another.

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