Sim­ple stats for par­ents

The Northland Age - - Opinion -

Ota­matea Grey Power have once again mounted their se­cond-favourite hobby horse, about im­mu­ni­sa­tion.

They start with the re­cy­cled straw man of com­pul­sory im­mu­ni­sa­tion. It is not com­pul­sory here, though in the US it is a re­quire­ment that your child be im­mu­nised if you want them to at­tend kinder­gartens and schools. Ex­emp­tions are per­mit­ted, and some states and coun­ties po­lice them rather laxly. Per­haps not co­in­ci­den­tally, th­ese are the same ones that have measles out­breaks.

The Na­tional Vaccine In­jury Com­pen­sa­tion Pro­gram (NVACIP) in the US was set up mainly be­cause juries were mak­ing judg­ments that did not take ac­count of hard facts, and were mak­ing such very large and ir­ra­tional awards that vaccine man­u­fac­tur­ers be­gan to pull out of the mar­ket. Now, spe­cial judges with ex­pert as­ses­sors to help them, make the de­ci­sions.

Most awards are for relatively mi­nor harms, but in the US an overnight stay in a hospi­tal with a relatively un­com­pli­cated mat­ter can quickly lead to a bill of sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars.

For a more se­ri­ous con­di­tion, with life­long ef­fects, the bills can be enor­mous, at which point in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and their lawyers run for cover. The NVICP, though not per­fect, en­sures some fair­ness.

OGP in­vites us to “. . . con­sider whether, know­ing the statis­tics, you will play Rus­sian roulette with your child’s life”. So here are some sim­ple statis­tics for par­ents to pon­der.

In a group of 100 chil­dren who get measles, most will have mild fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a rash. In a group of 100 chil­dren who re­ceive MMR vaccine, most will have mild pain and swelling at the in­jec­tion site, joint pain and stiff­ness.

In the measles group of 100 chil­dren, 12 may get di­ar­rhoea and 14 may get an ear infection, 15 of the hun­dred may have more se­ri­ous symp­toms: nine may get pneu­mo­nia, five may have measles croup, and one may have a con­vul­sion due to high fever. In the im­mu­nised group, four may have a high tem­per­a­ture, four may be ir­ri­ta­ble, one may have swollen sali­vary (spit) glands, and five may have a non-in­fec­tious faint red rash.

Of a thou­sand chil­dren who get measles, two may get en­cephali­tis (in­flam­ma­tion of the brain), which may cause per­ma­nent brain dam­age or death. Three of the thou­sand will de­velop a ten­dency to bruis­ing or ab­nor­mal bleed­ing (TCPP). Of a mil­lion who get im­mu­nised , fewer than one in a mil­lion with get en­cephali­tis.

If your child gets measles, they are two thou­sand times more likely to get en­cephali­tis than if they are im­mu­nised. The im­mu­nised child is over a hun­dred times less likely to de­velop TCPP.

There is a lit­tle known and rare com­pli­ca­tion of measles that about one in 100,000 chil­dren may get, com­ing on sev­eral years af­ter the at­tack and lead­ing to pro­gres­sive brain dam­age and nearly al­ways death. This sub­a­cute scle­ros­ing pa­nen­cephali­tis does not fol­low im­mu­ni­sa­tion.

To most sen­si­ble par­ents, I hope by now that the ref­er­ence to “Rus­sian roulette” is look­ing to be a bit stupid. Most chil­dren who get measles will re­cover fully, but the risks of not do­ing so are many, many times greater than the risks of be­ing im­mu­nised.

We should not for­get ei­ther those in the com­mu­nity, those on chemo­ther­apy, whose immune sys­tem may be sup­pressed, and for whom con­tact with measles may be an im­me­di­ate threat to their lives.

Ota­matea Grey Power wants you to be­lieve that im­mu­ni­sa­tion is both com­pul­sory and unsafe. Their ram­bling views are not worth even a horse laugh, and they em­bar­rass them­selves by of­fer­ing them.

BILL MOR­RIS Pukenui Bald Power

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