Preventable childhood disease epidemics keep breaking out throughout the world. Whooping cough has spread throughout the USA, and measles cases have risen dramatically in the UK. Now 17 new cases of measles have been reported during the last week in Southern Ireland bringing the total number of confirmed cases in West Cork to 42. Physicians in that part of Ireland are urging parents to vaccinate their children
According to Dr. Fiona Ryan, a consultant in public health medicine, “At the moment, the best way to ensure safety is to ensure that babies are not exposed to older children who may not be vaccinated and who are incubating the disease. Some cases have unvaccinated brothers and sisters, so they are very likely to become infected. Unfortunately the symptoms are very non-specific before they get the rash.”
Preventing measles is rather simple. Two doses of the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella, often called German measles) are recommended, with the first dose to be given at 12 months of age and the second between the ages of four and five. Once again, measles is not a trivial disease. According to the CDC, the prognosis for measles can be serious:
Complications from measles can be serious. They occur more commonly in children younger than 5 years old and adults 20 years of age or older. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from the disease. In fact, worldwide, measles is still a significant cause of vaccine-preventable death among children. In 2008, there were about 164,000 measles deaths worldwide—that equals 450 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour.
In Ireland the MMR vaccination rate for 24 month old children is around 92%, probably high enough to induce a herd immunity, that is, the proportion of a population required to be immune to a disease to prevent or inhibit its spread. For measles, herd immunity should be around 83-94%, with a higher number, of course, better. In the Cork area of Ireland, the vaccination rate is around 86%, but a small percentage of those who receive the vaccine don’t become immune, so the immunity rate may fall below the herd immunity, meaning that measles can spread quickly.
The low MMR vaccination rate in that part of Ireland may be a result of the same low rate in parts of the UK–Andy Wakefield’s fraudulent research published and subsequently withdrawn paper in the Lancet. And, as has been discussed a million times, MMR vaccines DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM.
Vaccines save lives.