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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Human Cost of Andrew Wakefield


For those who are unaware of this fine example of humanity, Andrew Wakefield was the doctor who was responsible for the shoddy piece of research that lead to the rumour that measles vaccines can cause autism. 

The MMR vaccine was the primary focus of the anti-vaccine stance since this was the vaccine that people believed PROVED a link between vaccination and illness. Turns out it did not. 

This has caused a rise in outbreaks across Europe and America particularly when measles sufferers have travelled from reservoirs of disease in the east. And this has come to haunt us. 

Currently there are 6500 cases across Europe, far higher than the national average. For instance in 2010 France has had 5090 cases. While between January to March this year there have been 4937 cases and rising. The same is seen in the UK with the sudden boom in cases reaching 330 cases. 

The fault lies in the lack of vaccination. It is clear and simple. Money that could have been saved by vaccination is now being spent ensuring these kids survive their disease without the harm that it can cause. Post Wakefield fewer children were vaccinated at one point dropping to nearly 50%, and more and more cases were seen until the current epidemic. 85% of the people are vaccinated but the disease is highly contagious with an infection rate of 90%. If you are un-vaccinated and run into a measles sufferer in the same area or having passed through the same area, then there is a 90% chance of catching the disease. 

The price people paid for measles was a high one. Modern technology has softened the blow but the blow is still there. Fewer people will be deaf or blind or have developmental disorders but this is a disease preventable by vaccination. The number and cost would have been a lot cheaper. 

The attitude of the anti-vaccine movement was like encouraging people to not wear seatbelts. Now the car has crashed. The question remains is whether we can contain the spread of a disease that is airborne or not before it costs us more lives. 

We need vaccination, and we need it now, before we pay the price in bodies rather than in Pounds and Euros. 

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