Thanks to my dear friend Portia, an interactive map showing outbreaks of preventable infectious diseases, from the Council on Foreign Relations: Vaccine-Preventable Outbreaks. Considering just the US and European countries where anti-vaxx activism has become a real public health problem, such as the UK and Germany, one can see that the situation is getting worse over the years. This alone should be enough to give the cult members some pause, but numbers sometimes don’t convey the required urgency, maybe two personal examples will.
In recent weeks, two case from industrialized countries illustrate dramatically the dangerous nonsense espoused by antivax activists.
The first case, from Canada: Boy, 6, in critical condition at London hospital with Ontario’s first recorded case of tetanus. He wasn’t vaccinated. As the article reminds us, “Even with early treatment, tetanus is fatal in about 20% of cases, with the higher fatality rates among infants and the elderly“.
The second case, from Spain: Parents of diphtheria-stricken boy feel “tricked” by anti-vaccination groups. As the headline says, the boy wasn’t vaccinated, due to his parents believing the fabrications of the antivax cult. The antidiphtheric serum had to be flown in from Russia, Spain hadn’t had a single case of diphtheria in the last 35 years; the antivax cult is risking a multi-generation effort that so far had kept Spain’s children safe: “Diphtheria vaccination rates in Spain are between 90 and 95 percent following systematic public health campaigns that began in 1945. Thanks to these efforts, the dangerous disease had been eradicated in the country“.
Fortunately, some people regain their senses before the worst happens, as exemplified in this post from the excellent blog “Voices For Vaccines”, Leaving the Anti-Vaccine Movement: “I now view the anti-vaccine movement as a sort of cult, where any sort of questioning gets you kicked out, your crunchy card revoked. I was even told I couldn’t call myself a natural mother anymore, because vaccines are too unnatural. That’s fine. I just want to be the best parent I know how to be, and that means always being open to new information and admitting when I’m wrong.I was terribly wrong about vaccines, and I’m thankful my girls never caught anything. I feel like I’m being more true to myself, now, as well. I’m not blindly following what others say, just because we agree on a few other things. I’m putting my trust in science, and discovering who were really my friends all along“.
Once again, googling for “vaccines” does not make anyone an”expert” in any way, and there are seriously deranged people and/or with vested interests out there (the notorious Wakefield sells “miracle treatments” for autism, for instance) who will push dangerous beliefs, and without a working knowledge of immunology, microbiology, epidemiology and vaccines in general it is impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you really intend to become an expert in vaccines, start by looking for reliable sources, such as the CDC in the US, which has wonderful educational resources on the subject: Vaccines & Immunizations.
Stay safe, keep children safe: vaccinate.
UPDATE [June 9th]: Karen Ernst wrote an excellent post on the same subject: How Do We Hold the Internet Accountable? Just an excerpt: “After reading the exhortations about how easy it is to prevent and kill tetanus, a parent could be lulled into complacency about tetanus, dousing their children in honey and hydrogen peroxide as the (actual) tetanus toxin spread through a child’s body. Following this advice, not only is a child left vulnerable to an illness with a 10-20% death rate, but this child’s potential medical treatment is delayed. In the meantime, bloggers get to make up their own facts from whole cloth and sell them to those whom they’ve frightened away from doctors. But what of the children who are harmed by this misinformation? What is their recourse? Who will stand up for them?“