Anti-vaccination nutballs are a plague unto all

❝ An outbreak of measles four years ago at Disneyland focused attention on a growing health menace — the refusal of parents to vaccinate their children. The threat has gone international. The World Health Organization has just named the anti-vaccination movement among the 10 biggest global health crises…

❝ The “vaccine-hesitant” — the WHO’s politer term — often wave ignorant junk-science claims that vaccines can cause autism. This dangerous lie gained traction in a 1998 article published in the prestigious British journal The Lancet. It turned out that lawyers suing vaccine-makers were funding the author, Andrew Wakefield. Britain subsequently stripped Wakefield of the right to practice medicine.

❝ In this country, 18 states still allow “nonmedical exemptions” for vaccinating children based on a philosophical belief. Requests for such exemptions are rising in 12 of them.

New York state is seeing its most troubling measles outbreak in decades. Almost all the cases occur among ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose insular communities have been ripe for anti-vaccine propagandists. William Handler, an Orthodox rabbi in Brooklyn, told Vox that parents who “placate the gods of vaccination” are engaging in “child sacrifice…”

Once vaccination levels fall below 95 percent, epidemiologists explain, there aren’t enough people to hold the disease in check. And measles is highly contagious. The virus floats in the air and can live on surfaces for hours.

Scientifically-illiterate Americans have a perfect right to infect their families with preventable diseases in a number of states. Introducing contagion – of course – which especially threatens so many others whose circumstances are limited by income and age.

Why are measles coming back?

❝ We eliminated measles in the U.S. in 2000. Somebody should tell the measles. Because even though the virus has no permanent home stateside, it keeps getting in—more and more, it seems.

❝ If you were born in the U.S. after about 1968, you’ve lived your entire life with virtually no interaction with the measles. Consider yourself lucky. The virus causes fevers over 104°F, inflamed eyes, a cough, plus a rash that begins as tiny white spots and becomes an itchy red mass spreading outward from the head to cover your entire body. And that’s just your basic measles encounter. About 30 percent of measles patients get extra complications, including diarrhea, pneumonia, brain inflammation, and permanent blindness. In healthy areas, few people died of the disease—only about 0.3 percent—but in impoverished or malnourished populations that figure jumps up to around 30 percent.

❝ Before the measles vaccine, 3 to 4 million people got the disease every year and basically everyone had gotten it by age 15. That might sound like pretty good news. If everyone gets it as a kid, surely it’s like chicken pox—you get it, then you’re over it. In some ways, that’s right. But it also means that the potentially permanent complications (and the fatalities) disproportionately affect little kids.

❝ We’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to live in a world where young children regularly get serious diseases. It’s difficult to notice an absence of deaths, so here’s some perspective: from 2000-2012, the measles vaccine saved about 13.8 million lives. If we continue the way we’re going, though, we might get a different perspective. From 1989-1991, measles saw a huge comeback because people weren’t getting vaccinated enough—and we may not be too far from that happening all over again.

We’re losing herd immunity and that’s sufficient to allow this childhood killer back. RTFA for sensible discussion. By now – if you’re a regular reader of this blog – I take it down to two questions: ignorance or stupidity.

In this instance, I’d say both. I grew up before vaccines were common in the US. Every spring the kids in our factory town sooner or later got round to figuring out who died over winter…and from what. I had measles and waltzed right through. My kid sister wasn’t so lucky. Ended up in hospital in an oxygen tent with pneumonia before she kicked it.

We also had to contend with scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps, rheumatic fever and more. The summer was saved for polio.

10th California baby dies in whooping cough epidemic

She caught whooping cough – her infant son died
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

California health officials say a tenth baby has died of whooping cough in the state’s worst epidemic in 55 years.

The 6-week-old baby died last week after being treated at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego…

More than 5,270 cases of the highly-contagious illness have been reported in California this year. The previous record was set in 1955 when there were 4,949 cases reported.

All of the babies who have died were too young to be fully immunized against the disease, according to health officials.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious, cyclical illness that peaks in number of infections every five years. The last peak occurred in 2005 when California reported 3,182 cases, with 574 hospitalizations and seven deaths…

Jonathan Fielding, the county’s health director, urges parents and caretakers to get vaccinations to avoid any more deaths…

What the anti-vaccination nutballs don’t get is that those who may be outside the effective zones of infection also need to be vaccinated to inhibit transmitting the disease to the most vulnerable. This is something that’s been accepted medical practice since the days of Jenner – when the sum of peer review determined which disease vectors needed to be inhibited by any means. Vaccination happens to be just one of those that is most effective.

Individuals, whether caregivers or parents who refuse vaccination, decide to be Good Germans. They don’t set out to harm anyone else by their self-important act of “freedom”. Neither does the fool who drinks and drives. Both classes of egregious behavior serve in practice to put others in danger.

Health officials say most kids are once again susceptible to the disease by middle school.

A booster dose of the vaccine is recommended for people between the ages of 11 and 18, as well as for people who have contact with infants.