My View: Anti-vaccine movement is reactionary, dangeroushttp://www.mankatofreepress.com/opinion ... 625c6.html
Dec 29, 2018
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, a British physician, fabricated research that purported to show that the preservative in the mumps/measles/rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism.
He succeeded in getting the fake study published, with twelve collaborators, in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal.
Investigations by the Sunday Times and the British Medical Journal found that Wakefield committed deliberate fraud for financial gain.
The British General Medical Council, which registers doctors in the UK, found that Wakefield had acted “dishonestly, irresponsibly, unethically, and callously.” The Lancet retracted the paper as “utterly false” and Wakefield was struck off the British Medical Registry.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many subsequent studies have found no link between vaccines and autism; they show that the benefits of vaccinations outweigh any risk.
Small groups of “anti-vaxxers” have nonetheless made large groups of people sick. Recent outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases in the U.S. have started among clusters of vaccine refusers.
There is currently a major chicken pox outbreak in North Carolina where a large number of students were exempted from a vaccination requirement. The CDC estimates that the chickenpox vaccine prevents more than 9,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths every year.
The measles vaccine alone has saved an estimated 120 million lives worldwide. The WHO reported that the incidence of measles increased by 30 percent in 2017, mostly among young children, and that 110,000 died from the virus. Anti-vaccine sentiment is a major cause, it said.
The diphtheria and tetanus vaccines are estimated to have saved 60 million lives.
No vaccine has been more consequential than the smallpox vaccine. Hundreds of millions of people died from smallpox throughout history, more than in all world wars combined. Smallpox destroyed many American Indian tribes and killed more Aztecs and Incas than Spanish conquistadores did.
Even the Black Death (bubonic plague) did not kill as many people. The plague still kills about 600 people per year, but there is a vaccine, and it is treatable with antibiotics.
In 1967, the World Health Organization announced a global campaign to eliminate smallpox. At that time, there were still 10-15 million active cases worldwide, resulting in two million deaths per year and hundreds of thousands blinded or disfigured.
I worked for the Smallpox Eradication Program in Africa in one of the last countries in the world that still had endemic smallpox. By tracking down active cases and then vaccinating everyone around the outbreak, we increased “herd immunity” and broke the chain of transmission.
Some 465 million people in 27 countries were vaccinated in the process. As a result, naturally occurring smallpox was eliminated by October 1977, at an estimated cost of $100 million.
The program found that 40-50 people per million, mostly those with compromised immune systems, had life-threatening reactions from the vaccinations, and one or two per million died. Yes, some vaccinations have side effects, although they are mostly minor and temporary. Autism is not one of those side effects.
The current Global Polio Eradication Initiative is the largest international public health effort in history. Poliovirus cases have decreased by over 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases in 125 countries to 22 reported cases in 2017.
According to the CDC, the chickenpox vaccine prevents more than 3.5 million cases of varicella, 9,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths every year.
Influenza killed 80,000 people in the U.S. last year, the highest death toll in 40 years; the flu virus can change its genetic make-up rapidly, even during the course of a single season. Experts believe this was the cause for the high death rate; the vaccine is formulated months ahead of the flu season. Past versions, such the “Spanish Flu” (H1N1) of 1918/19 may have killed 50 million people worldwide, more than died in World War I.
But crackpots and know-nothings are always with us; facts haven’t stopped Alex Jones and others from spreading Wakefield’s lie.
Not surprisingly, the “stupid party” (as Bobby Jindal termed it), led appropriately enough by Donald Trump, has not only seized on Wakefield’s claim but Trump has actively promoted it. The Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan effusively praised GOP Finance Chair Jennifer Larson and others recently for promoting their anti-science, anti-vax agenda and for presenting Trump with anti-vax books during his visit.
Vaccines are modern miracles. Maurice Hilleman developed 40 vaccines during his lifetime. Eight of them are believed to have saved 129 million lives; he is credited with saving more lives than anyone in history.
Ignore the cranks: check with your health-care provider.
Tom Maertens held several science and techology positions in the U.S. Government, including minister-counselor for Environment, Science, and Technology at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where he had oversight responsibility for a $300 million per year science program with the Russian government.