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Measles: There is a way to convince the opponents of vaccines

Following the outbreak of measles in the West, Prof. Tom Solomon, director of the National Institute for Health Research in Great Britain, suggests showing the anti-vaccine public what happens to children in the third world who are sick with preventable diseases

Author: Tom Solomon, Director of the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Department of Health Protection Research in Infectious Diseases and Infections, and Professor of Neurology, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool

Measles symptoms. Illustration: shutterstock
Measles symptoms. Illustration: shutterstock


Following a measles outbreak in Rockland County in the state of New York, the authorities there declared a state of emergency and prohibited unvaccinated children from being in public areas. As a result, questions arise about the responsibility of the state and of (private) people when it comes to public health.


The measles virus spreads through coughing and carelessness between people. The vaccine, which is highly effective, has been given with measles and rubella vaccines since 1970 as part of the MMR shot. The global incidence of measles declined sharply after the vaccine became widely available. But what determined the spread of measles was largely the work of Andrew Wakefield, who linked the MMR vaccine to autism. There is no such connection, indeed, Wakefield's work was later rejected by the General Medical Council due to his admission of falsifying the data but the damage was done and is irreversible.


In 2017, the number of measles cases soared due to gaps in vaccination coverage in certain areas, and there were more than 80,000 cases in Europe in 2018.


The World Health Organization has named the anti-vaccination movement one of the world's top ten health threats for 2019, and the UK government is considering new legislation to force social media companies to remove content with false information about vaccines. The recent move by the authorities in the United States of preventing the entry of unvaccinated children into public places is a different legal approach. They admit it will be difficult to enforce, but say the new law is important evidence that they are taking the outbreak seriously.


Most children with measles simply feel weak, with fever, swollen glands, runny eyes and nose, and an itchy rash. The unlucky ones develop breathing difficulties or brain swelling (encephalitis), and one to two in a thousand will die from the disease. This was the fate of Roald Dahl's seven-year-old daughter, Olivia, who died of measles in the 60s before there was a vaccine.


When the measles vaccine became available, Dahl was shocked that some parents decided not to vaccinate their children. He started an awareness campaign in the XNUMXs and addressed them directly in an open letter. He recognized that parents are concerned about the rare risks of side effects from the vaccine but explained that statistically, children are more likely to choke to death even from chocolate than from the measles vaccine.


Dahl rebelled against the British authorities for not doing more to vaccinate the children and supported the American approach at the time: vaccination was not compulsory, but according to the law they had to send their children to school, and they were not allowed to enter it unless they were vaccinated. Indeed, one of the new measures taken this week by New York authorities was to once again ban unvaccinated children from entering schools.



The question is whether, in light of the spread of measles throughout America and Europe, governments should go further and make vaccination mandatory? Most would argue that this is a terrible violation of human rights, but there are precedents. For example, the yellow fever virus vaccination requirement for many travelers arriving from countries in Africa and Latin America because of the fear of the spread of this horrific disease. No one seems to object to this.


Also, in rare cases, when parents refuse to save the life of their sick child for religious reasons, the courts override these objections through child protection laws. But why are there no laws mandating the taking of vaccines to protect the child?

Vaccines look different because the child is not really sick and there may be serious side effects from time to time. It is interesting that the United States has the authority to require children to be vaccinated, but they tend not to enforce these laws, when there is religious opposition or for reasons of a different philosophical view.

This can be compared to the period before the mandatory use of seat belts in cars in most countries of the world. In rare cases, a seat belt can cause damage by rupturing the spleen or injuring the spine. But the benefits far outweigh the risks and no one is campaigning for a crash.

I have some sympathy for those who are ultra-Orthodox against vaccines. They are bombarded daily with contradictory claims. Unfortunately, some evidence suggests that the more the authorities try to convince people (show people) the benefits of the vaccine, the more suspicious they may become.


I remember taking one of my daughters to get an MMR shot at age one. As I held her tight, and the needle came closer, I couldn't help but recalculate the numbers in my head, and I had to convince myself that I was doing the right thing. There is something unnatural about inflicting pain on your child with a sharp jab, even if you know it is for their own good. But if my doubts persisted, I only had to think of the many vaccine-preventable disease patients I encountered as part of my research program abroad.


I worked in Vietnam in the nineties. As part of my work, I treated not only measles patients but also children suffering from diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and polio, which were found mainly in the history books of Western medicine. I remember attending the hospital to an English couple who had just arrived in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with their young family. "We don't believe in vaccinating our children," they told me. "We believe in a holistic approach. It is important to let them develop their natural immune system." In the end, they arrived with the children at the hospital because of their innocence."

In Asia, where we are promoting vaccination programs against the mosquito-borne encephalitis virus, which causes fatal swelling of the brain, families patiently lined up for hours in the tropical sun to get their children vaccinated. For them, the positions of Western vaccine opponents are embarrassing. Only in the West, where we rarely see these diseases, do parents have the opportunity to take into account the smallest risks of vaccination; When faced with the horrors of preventable disease, most will change their minds.

Tom Solomon is the author of the book: Roald Dahl's Miracle Medicine.

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7 תגובות

  1. The number of active confused people is increasing - and these attract new active confused people and this phenomenon will expand as time goes by.
    As a result of this - the work of advocacy will be more difficult to the point where it will be impossible (and we are close to that, or we have already passed the point of no return).
    The problem: it is much easier to connect to a simple explanation such as: the vaccine causes... (some type of fever + an unattractive photo) than all the explanations that are so difficult to understand. A new similar phenomenon is happening with the flat world trainers. The amount of confused people are active every day... I personally do not know all the intricacies of the conspiracy theories (since I am not connected to Facebook and others) but I am convinced that we (humanity) have a problem. The active confused are not unconvincing and in fact, it is quite comfortable to live in a slightly simpler world...

  2. Roy The author explained nicely, that it is like a seat belt. The number of people trapped in a car because of a seat belt is like nothing compared to those who are saved thanks to it. So are vaccines. It's true, maybe for that family of the one in a million affected by the vaccine it's a whole world, but what about the other 999,999 families who don't even know they were supposed to lose someone?

    There is anecdotal evidence of someone accidentally dying after the vaccine. Believe me, they check everything that happened in the days before death, including the vaccinations and check what could have caused it, so proximity is not always causal.
    As for Anonymous, I don't delete anti-immune responses outright, but your response pretended to be a scientific article, which even without a thorough examination contains nonsense, and it could be life-threatening.

  3. Some nonsense
    It is sad that the "Hidan" site does not do real research work
    I would be happy to send you lots of scientific studies that support the claim that vaccines are unsafe to use

  4. Do you really not know about vaccine victims? Regarding studies that link vaccines to vulnerability? Regarding the fund for vaccine victims?
    Would you really like to know? Contact me and I will send you a lot of material that supports the fact that the vaccines are clearly unsafe..
    After you see yourself will you be real enough to come back?

  5. The absurdity screams to the sky if you compare the enforcement of the seat belt obligation with the non-enforcement of the vaccination obligation. In both cases there are benefits as well as dangers: the seat belt, for example, may make it difficult to escape from the vehicle if for some reason it caught fire. The point is that not wearing a seat belt will only endanger those who have not fastened it, but a person who has not been vaccinated may infect and endanger many others including those who cannot be vaccinated. Therefore, in my opinion, vaccinations must be enforced, even if only as a temporary measure during outbreaks.

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