Anti-Vaccination Is Killing Children In Europe
Vaccines work. Full stop.
There is an epidemic happening right now. It has already infected 41,000 children, and killed 37. There is every reason to believe that these numbers will only grow.
The worst part?
It is entirely preventable. Every single sick child. Every single death.
How did this happen? And, more importantly, how can we stop it in its tracks?
The answers are tragically simple. You see, in the same time period that Europe has gone from having a tiny burden of measles to being in the grips of the worst epidemic in decades, Australia has almost eliminated the disease entirely.
It can be done.
The first question — how this happened — has a fairly easy, if sordid, answer. Two decades ago, a fraudulent study was published in the medical journal the Lancet blaming autism on the combined Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine. While the study has since been retracted for, among other things, fabricating results and massive ethical breaches, the damage was done.
In the years since, it has spread.
Vaccination rates, in particular the MMR vaccine, have plummeted in Europe. Sensationalist media, along with a dedicated anti-vaccine movement, have eroded trust in vaccination to the point where there are now tens of thousands of children unprotected.
And this year, it has caused an unprecedented wave of sickness and death.
Measles is a problematic disease. It is one of the most infectious around, with each person who contracts the disease infecting about 18 other people before they get better. What this means is that you have to vaccinate almost everyone — 95%+ of people — to ensure that the disease can’t spread around.
This is what’s known as herd immunity, and it is pretty cool.
But this also means that relatively small numbers of people refusing the vaccine can have disproportionately large impacts on the number of people infected. We can see this quite easily in Europe — if you look at the map above, even though most regions are sitting well above 84% vaccinated, the disease can still get a foothold and spread.
And it turns out that the main cause of this epidemic is unvaccinated children. Of the infected kids, between 83% and 94% were unvaccinated. And, remember, the unvaccinated children are in the minority. In this outbreak, unvaccinated children appear to be at somewhere around 100x the risk of contracting measles, which is not really surprising.
Vaccines work, after all.
But the saddest part about this all is that it is entirely preventable. On the other side of the world, Australia has officially eliminated the disease, reporting less than a handful of cases since 2014. With soaring vaccination rates, even the minor outbreaks in Australia quickly die out.
It is truly wonderful.
There is no complex message here. Vaccination has been around for centuries, saving lives all the while. The MMR vaccine in particular is one of the most well-studied, safe, and effective medical interventions in modern medicine.
It can be hard to take statements about safety at face value, so here are some figures to explain why the MMR vaccine is so important:
Risk of serious issues due to measles = 1 in 1,000
Risk of death due to measles = 1 in 1,000
Risk of serious issues due to MMR vaccine = 1 in 1,000,000
Risk of death due to MMR vaccine < 1 in 10,000,000
The risk of having a serious, lifelong problem caused by the measles vaccine is roughly 1,000 times lower than the risk of the same being caused by measles. The risk of death is more than 10,000 times lower. For every person who has a vaccine-related problem, tens of thousands of people are saved painful and disabling disease.
Vaccines are not without risk, just like all medical interventions. But the risk of issues with a vaccine are orders of magnitude lower than the risk associated with catching the disease itself.
Get vaccinated. Save yourself and others a lifetime of pain.
We can stop children dying from measles. Together.