Once again, we're seeing outbreaks of measles across Europe. How is that even possible in this day and age? Because some people still think it's a bad idea to vaccinate.
Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease. It’s airborne, and spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of infected people. Nine out of ten people who are not immune, and share living space with an infected person will catch it. And measles is a pretty shitty disease to catch. Initial symptoms typically include a high fever, often greater than 40 °C (104 °F), cough, a runny nose, and inflamed eyes. After a few days, a red rash will usually start in the face, and then spread to the rest of the body. In about 30% of the cases, you’ll see complications like diarrhea, blindness, inflammation of the brain, and pneumonia.
in 2014, a whooping 73,000 people died from measles. But that’s a massive decreased when compared to earlier years. In 1980, a staggering 2.6 million people died of it. What caused this impressive decline in the number of deaths? Global vaccination programs. As a result of these programs, the disease was practically eliminated from the Americas, and most of Europe, by 2016.
But now the number of registered outbreaks increases across Europe. Why? Because people are idiots.
I live in Norway, where getting the MMR vaccine cocktail, which contains the measles vaccine, is part of the standard vaccination program that all children are supposed to go through. The MMR vaccine is usually administered when the child is 15 months old, but it is given as early as after 9 months if necessary.
Unfortunately, I live in a local community that historically had - and still do, to some degree - a lot of hippies. Many of them follow the philosophies of Waldorf education, and its founder Rudolf Steiner. Steiner, who died in 1925 (almost 100 years ago), wasn’t too happy about vaccines:
"Treatment with modified virus vaccine is effective [...], but it has unfavorable after-effects. Particularly if a child is treated with vaccine, it will later suffer a hardening of its organization." - Rudolf Steiner (over 100 years ago)
Steiner writes that vaccines is effective, but they also pose a serious danger. Because of this 100 year old1 rambling nonsense, many fans of Rudolf Steiner figure it’s better to let kids get sick with a potentially deadly disease than to vaccinate them.
The MMR vaccination program started in Norway in 1969, and the current coverage is about 93%. There hasn’t been a major outbreak of measles in Norway since 1980, except for in my local community in 1996 when 82 people got the disease.
Thank you, Rudolf Steiner!
Tin foil hats
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield released a research paper that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism and bowel disease. Other researchers were unable to reproduce Wakefield’s claims, and his paper has since been discredited. He has also been barred from practicing medicine in the UK.
Actually, vaccination is one of the conspiracy theorists favorite subjects. Some believe that vaccines is a leading cause of homosexuality. Others are convinced they are the cause of AIDS, or that the government is using vaccines to control our thoughts2.
The problem with conspiracies is that if you read enough about them, they start to make sense. And the further down the rabbit hole you go, the more sense they make. People start to believe what they’re reading and hearing, and as they talk other people who share their twisted perception of reality, their believe that they are right is only strengthened.
Remember that conspiracies are stories made up of loony crackpots. They rarely have any basis in the actual facts.
Have a look at the graph below, and then take a stab at guessing when the USA started their measles vaccination program:
The correct answer is 1960. Vaccines work. But they work more efficiently when a certain number of individuals in a population are vaccinated. The goal of vaccination programs is to get the number of people who can potentially be infected as low as possible. As long as a sick person can only infect less than 1 other person, the population will survive a pandemic.
You can’t force people to vaccinate their children. Neither is it legal to round up everyone who isn’t vaccinated and put them into camps. The term “concentration camp” sort of has a negative ring to it. What we can do is to try to convince pot smoking hippies, and wearers of fashionable tin foil hats that the MMR vaccine is a good idea. I’m sure they do what they believe is the best for themselves and their children, but it’s all about the bigger picture. When you’re not vaccinated, you’re a walking, talking, virus distributor. You’ll infect other people, many of whom are not vaccinated simply because they can’t, like infants.
If you catch measles, there’s a very, very slim chance you’ll actually die from it: The risk of death among those infected is usually 0.2%. But there is a 0% chance of dying from the MMR vaccine3. The vaccine has some side effects, like fever and a rash, but they are mild compared to getting the disease itself.
So go get your children, and yourself, vaccinated.
2018-03-05 19:02 CET