A recent news story reported that a mother in the UK was ordered by the high court to vaccinate her two children. The mother had objected on the grounds that she was vegan and had been raising her children as such and that the vaccine was introducing pollutants into their bodies. The children’s father appealed to the court to force the mother to agree to vaccinate the children and thankfully in this instance the court agreed.
The has been a lot of talk in recent years about possible risks associated with vaccinations, in particular the autism risk associated with the MMR vaccine. The controversy surrounding this vaccination was generated by a paper published the esteemed medical journal The Lancet back in 1998 and by subsequent media reporting. In the paper, the author linked autism to the MMR vaccine. The media picked up the story and ran with it, and vaccination rates dropped. Unfortunately in the following years, rates of measles and mumps increased, with deaths of children occurring that were directly attributed to the lack of vaccinations. This included three deaths in Ireland in 2000.
To add insult to injury, it later transpired that the initial paper in The Lancet was fraudulent. The author was found to have conflicts of interest in that he had applied for patents for competing vaccines. The Lancet took the step of discrediting the paper and formally withdrawing it. In 2012, a Cochrane review on dozens of previously published studies of over 14 million children found no credible evidence of an involvement of MMR with autism. Likewise further reviews in 2014 did not find any link between MMR vaccinations and autism or autism spectrum disorders.
Yet to this day, there is a large anti-vaccination movement still convinced of the links and refusing to vaccinate their children. Not only does this put their own childrenbat risk, but if the rate of vaccination uptake drops significantly, it can allow the diseases to gain footholds in the population, putting further lives at risk.
Vaccinations are a wonderful tool of preventive medicine, that allows us as a society and indeed as a planet to take active steps to manage our health and eradicate disease. We managed to do it with smallpox and we have dramatically reduced the impacts of a number of diseases. It behoves us as individuals and as responsible parents to do our bit to help eliminate disease from our society to put the health of our children first.