What’s Wrong With Catching the Measles!

22 07 2009
A child with Small Pox in Bangladesh 1973

A child with the now eradicated small pox in Bangladesh 1973

A recent article on the warning of a measles epidemic in New Zealand bought out some of the weird and wonderful ideas a (hopefully small) proportion of New Zealanders have about the measles.  What a polarizing subject it is!  The majority of people who were questioning the vaccination were taking what on the face of it is a reasonable stance in that the state should not be able to dictate health care to the public.

For a comprehensive discussion of the scientific reasons why such an argument is flawed I would suggest that you read the Science Based Medicine Blog.  But to summarize there are two principle issues namely herd immunity and risk.

There are members of the community who cannot have vaccinations due to age (such as babies) or due to medical conditions and therefore the only protection that they are afforded is herd immunity to avoid contracting preventable diseases.

Depending on the disease, for effective herd immunity the threshold for the percentage of the population to be immunized is between 75% and 95%.  Effectively, while there is a high number of immunized people, a parent who chooses not to immunize their child will be taking advantage of the herd immunity.  However, when to many parents refuse vaccinations the threshold drops to a point where the disease can thrive and even cause an epidemic.  Once an unvaccinated child contracts a disease they then have to deal with the next principle issue of risk.

The statistical likelihood of a child being harmed by a vaccine is considerably lower than if they actually contract the disease.  Diseases like the measles will cause a small proportion of children significant long term harm or even death due to pneumonia or brain swelling caused by encephalitis.  Such risks are dramatically reduced through the use of vaccination.  People with immunodeficiencies are far also more likely to suffer the extreme effects of these diseases.

So, when many parents refuse to vaccinate their children, it ends up putting many other children at risk.

That’s enough of the dry stuff.  I want to point out some of the pearl’s of wisdom out of the many anecdotal stories that came through the readers comments to the article:

Leigh # 4 asks:

“I would also like to question why the alternative homeopathic vaccination program that was available 20 years ago, which I used successfully, has been removed from the market? Yes, we middle-class parents like to question- and with very good reason!”

I can probably answer this one – it’s because injecting children with magic water does not vaccinate them against diseases!

Phil # 16 after accusing all studies that show the benefits of vaccines as being fraudulent stated:

“Please don’t vaccinate your children, they need to get measles, mumps, chicken pox etc. No-one wishes suffering for any child, but the human body needs to be exposed to these things to work correctly later in life. I believe, through years of research, that vaccinations may well be child abuse.”

So everyone who has had a vaccination and not subsequently contracted disease can not expect to have a body that works correctly later in life…show me the evidence.  Also, I would suggest you observe a child going through the discomfort of the measles, mumps, or the chicken pox – allowing your child to be inflicted with such diseases when they are preventable could also be argued as child abuse.

Les # 19 Does his best to totally butcher year 9 probability:

“Educated parents are aware of the risks, that’s why. A basic risk analysis will show the vaccine isn’t worth it. From the MOH own vaccination site: 1 in 1000 measles cases get inflammation of the brain so using 100 cases a year, it will take ten years before someone should have that complication. However, the same site shows the vaccine causes convulsions in one in 3000 recipients, and inflammation of the brain in 1 in a million. Assuming even 30,000 doses a year, thats at least 10 having convulsions. Not my child thank you”

So lets fairly compare 100 people who are not vaccinated and contracted the measles with 30,000 people who are given a vaccination…spot the imbalance!  In fact according the website if one thousand children contract the measles approximately one will get inflammation of the brain versus 0.001 children in one thousand who suffer inflammation of the brain from the vaccination (of course there still will be a small proportion of vaccinated people who get the measles – but usually because there is no herd immunity!).

Phil # 62 After providing an anecdote that shed no light on the discussion he said:

“Herd ammunity has been proven to be a load of hype, and cannot work. Outbreaks will always happen, and some cases will result in death. No vaccination campaign will ever stop that, even if you choose to believe it will. Vaccines are fraud. End of story, and the MoH knows this but will never back down in their promotion of it. So sad, for the millions who are harmed through vaccines. The diseases will happen anyway: it is not vaccines that has stopped them.”

And small pox just stopped itself…

I thought that Tim #31 gave a good summing up of the skeptical position:

“How is it that in this day and age we have people who believe that vaccines cause autism, 9/11 was carried out by the CIA, the moonlandings were a hoax etc etc. BUT they don’t believe the brain damage and harm the real diseases like measles can cause?

I am a ‘middle class, educated parent’ whatever that means. I say it is a crime not to vaccimate your kids when they are supplied free of charge by the government. What will happen when we have a polio outbreak? or worse… Just get the poor kids vaccinated NOW.”




7 responses

4 08 2009

Thank you – I think! I went from here to the original article & then had to go & rinse my brain out. Scary to see so much concentrated silliness coming to the fore in NZ 😦

7 08 2009
Measles Outbreak « Scepticon

[…] Evidence Based Thought: What’s wrong with catching the Measles? « Viamins and Exercise […]

25 02 2011
A J Ponder

Problem with this kind of stuff is
1) using smallpox vaccination picture as a case for MMR or any other vaccine other than the smallpox vaccine is misleading and deliberately provoking a fear response which is not a useful rational place to start an argument.
2) not every vaccination is of equal merit. For example chicken pox (and my kids had this) is a relatively benign disease – when I asked a parent why they would give their child this vaccine they said it was to prevent shingles in later life – problem is having the vaccine actually increases the rate of shingles (look it up in the medical literature) so I would argue this vaccine is unnecessary.
3) you can’t take an extreme anti-vaccination argument and apply it to everybody who is sceptical about vaccine/s, and then say every sceptic thinks that same way. It would be like me writing off the MMR vaccine because the first one they used in Britain and Japan had a faulty mumps component. But without the sceptics – without people calling for testing, they might have tried to get away with the cheaper vaccine for who knows how many more years.
4) My uncle almost died because about three doctors wouldn’t even treat him for a disease he’d been vaccinated against – even though he had all the symptoms. They used FAITH and not science. Let people question. Just because a vaccine is a good idea for your kid at six months – because they’re going to a crèche – it doesn’t means that it’s a good idea to rush that vaccine for a kid that has autoimmune issues in the family and a stay at home mum. Also if people ask questions like: where is the testing? – why did my doctor not report this as a possible vaccine reaction? Let the information be easily available and official instead of blowing up in some stupid media frenzy with people who wouldn’t know the difference between a vaccination from a vitamin K injection.

5 01 2013

What?! That’s Measles?! Oh my, poor little girl. Government should start solving for these issues. Otherwise, they’ll lose their people’s lives.
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22 10 2013

the picture is smallpox, not measles. People like to use fear as a motivator. seems it works.

30 01 2014

The picture is clearly captioned as smallpox. While confronting, at least it is captioned correctly for those who would read.

Anti-vaccination campaigners are the ones who are the most effective at using fear as a motivator, but unfortunately too often based on pseudoscience and misleading information. Sadly, they are very effective at scaring people away from preventive medicine.

10 05 2013
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