Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interesting Article

My aunt, who retired from being the head of infection control at our local hospital (yes, germaphobia runs in the family!), often sends me updates on disease outbreaks.  It's good to be informed, especially when Abby's health is at risk.  She recently sent me an update about the Measles outbreak, knowing that I am interested it is and the affect non-vaccinating is having on people world-wide.  It was a really long report sent in email form, but I have cut-and-pasted a segment of it that goes along with the discussion about vaccinations.  It affirms a lot of what was in the last article I posted about how the information linking vaccinations to Autism has been proven false and that the man responsible for that link has since been stripped of his medical license. 

This current outbreak concerns me because so much of it is taking place in the hospitals...where we spend an awful lot of time!  Abby won't get the MMR vaccine until between 12-15 months (I think our pediatrician does it at her 12 month appointment), so she does not currently  have an immunity.  We can't live in fear, but we will certainly take the precautions needed!

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Almost a decade ago, measles was declared eradicated in the Americas,

thanks to widespread vaccination efforts. But outbreaks in Quebec and

several of the United States show that Western Hemisphere countries

are still not immune to the virus, which can be imported by travellers

and quickly infect pools of the unprotected. And the number of those

vulnerable to measles may, in fact, be growing, as some parents choose

not to vaccinate their children for various reasons, among them fear

of possible side effects or a belief that measles and other infectious

diseases are merely a benign rite of passage in childhood.

Quebec's outbreak, which began early this year [2011] and this week

jumped to 330 confirmed and suspected cases, has been traced to a

traveller from France, where uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella

[MMR] vaccine hovers around 60 per cent of the population, far below

the 90-plus per cent rate in Canada. Information provided by Quebec

health authorities shows most of those infected were unvaccinated or

inadequately vaccinated, making them easy targets for the highly

infectious virus, said Dr John Spika of Canada's Public Health


While vaccination schedules vary across the country, many

jurisdictions call for a 1st dose at 12 months old and a 2nd before

admission to elementary school. "We're looking at a problem that is

primarily in high schools," said Spika, director general of PHAC's

Centre for Immunization and Respiratory Infectious Diseases. "Most of

their cases, over 60 per cent, are between the ages of 10 and 19. The

data that we have received would suggest that a high proportion of

those high-school-aged children may not have received any vaccine. Was

it because they're Quebecers born and raised whose parents refused

vaccine or did they immigrate to Quebec after the school-entry check

and never received vaccine in their home country?"

What is known is that it takes 2 shots of the MMR vaccine to fully

protect against measles. In 1995-96, before Canada moved to a 2-shot

schedule, there was a large outbreak that public health officials

predicted would have risen to 20 000 cases if the 2nd-dose program

hadn't been introduced. And Quebec's epidemic may not be an isolated

occurrence in Canada, said Spika, noting that a small outbreak

occurred in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics, resulting from the

importation of 3 different strains carried by overseas visitors to the

games. "The 3 strains spread and then died out because there weren't

enough susceptibles," he said. Cases could still pop up anywhere in

the country, he said. "If measles got into an unimmunized or

inadequately immunized group of kids, yes, that could happen."

Far from being a trivial disease, the respiratory infection marked by

a widespread skin rash can result in often severe complications: ear

infections that in some cases cause permanent hearing loss;

potentially fatal pneumonia; and encephalitis, or inflammation of the

brain, which can lead to life-long cognitive impairment or even


In fact, measles kills about 165 000 children a year worldwide,

primarily in low-income countries. While that number is still

unacceptably high, infectious disease experts say it is a far cry from

the 750 000 deaths reported in 2000, which predated a massive global

immunization push.

So why would anyone hesitate to have their child vaccinated? A study

by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published this

week by the journal Health Affairs, suggests parents have a number of

concerns that undermine confidence in vaccines. In the authors' survey

of parents, most reported at least one worry over immunization,

including that children: (1) suffer physical pain from shots, (2) get

too many shots in one doctor's visit, (3) have too many vaccines

before age 2, and (4) receive vaccines containing unsafe ingredients.

One of the most controversial issues related to the MMR vaccine is the

fear that the inoculation can lead to autism spectrum disorder,

despite repeated studies that have shown no causal link between the

vaccine and the developmental disorder.

Over the last decade, there was a resurgence of measles -- and mumps

-- due to a dramatic drop in vaccination rates in the United Kingdom

and some other European countries following a 1998 paper in The Lancet

that linked the MMR vaccine to autism. The journal retracted the paper

by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in early 2010 after the data

presented was discredited. An investigation published by the British

Medical Journal in January 2011 showed that the research by Wakefield,

who has been stripped of his licence to practise medicine in Britain,

"was an elaborate fraud."

Yet vaccination rates have been slow to rebound in those countries,

in part because some people continue to distrust the vaccine. Dr Heidi

Larson, a senior lecturer at the London School for Hygiene and

Tropical Medicine, suggests that part of the reason the notion about

autism persists "is there's a very proactive group of parents who have

autistic children or have neighbours who have autistic children and

who are absolutely convinced that that's the cause of it. This is what

they believe," said Larson, who published a study in The Lancet this

week looking at the reasons behind an apparent loss of public

confidence in vaccines. "And I think we understand the power of

belief," she said in an interview from London. "From a medical

perspective, you want to believe that if we've got the scientific

evidence, that's enough. And it's just not enough for a lot of people.

It's challenging, but I think the medical community needs to come to

terms with the fact that it's not going to be resolved by giving

better facts to each parent about who can benefit ... What's really

important is that we change the way of interacting with those who are

still vaccinating and make sure that they are confident and that their

questions are being answered."

In his view, said Spika, the autism link has been "totally debunked",

and the best way for parents to protect their children is to ensure

that they've had 2 doses of the vaccine. "The measles vaccine is quite

safe, and there's no reason why one shouldn't give the vaccine."


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Sandy said...

Totally agree with this & encourage all parents to vaccinate their children. The young parents of today did not live thru the pre- vaccination days when thousands of children died of "childhood illnesses" or who were left terribly handicapped because of. We had a country where most of these illnesses had been wiped out because of vaccines & now due to scared Parents these are on the rise, How very sad.

A Romyn said...

I just think that parents who don't vaccinate are scared about the wrong things...