Sunday, November 15, 2009

Anti-vaccination and South Africa's measels outbreak

South Africa is in the grip of a measles epidemic (luckily confined primarily to the province of Gauteng), with 2000 cases and 4 deaths. The culprit? Parents not vaccinating their children (among other things) due to the fear that jabs can cause autism. Before getting into a bit more detail, I want to praise reporter Kim Hawley at the Times (of South Africa) for getting the story exactly right: her article emphasized the unscientific nature of such worries. Well done.

A press release issued by South Africa’s department of health contains the following revealing paragraph:
One striking feature of this latest outbreak is that while it has affected children of the poorer communities, it has also been concentrated among relatively well-off children, predominantly in the 15-19 year old age group. We believe that in both groups, the underlying cause has been failure by the parents or guardians to take children for immunization i.e. both the initial and follow-up doses.
It seems likely that among the well-off children (and much less so among the poorer children, where other factors were likely involved) the cause is parents’ fears over vaccines causing autism. The source of these fears is the anti-vaccination movement (and their idiotic celebrity sponsors) that has spread unscientific claims that either the MMR vaccine causes autism or that thimerosal (until recently a common vaccine ingredient) causes autism. These claims have been disproved beyond reasonable doubt. Being more influenced by Britain than America, it's probable that the MMR claim is most relevant to South Africa, so I'll focus on that. The source of the MMR-autism worry was a deeply flawed, and possibly fraudulent, 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues, that was merely a case series of 12 subjects (that is, a series of 12 anecdotes) that could not, in principle, determine whether there was a causal link. Moreover, Wakefield had undisclosed conflicts of interest (he received £50,000 in legal aid money from lawyers preparing a case against MMR – over the years he received over £434,000 from such cases). Wakefield is also currently under investigation by the UK's General Medical Council on charges of serious misconduct, and he might lose his license to practice.

Just because the original study was flawed does not mean, of course, that the there cannot be a link between vaccines and autism. But, as I said above, numerous subsequent studies have found no such link. In other words, there is no good reason at all to think vaccines cause autism. Note to parents: VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN. Dammit.

(via The Lay Scientist)


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  3. Fact #1 Vaccines DO NOT PROTECT !!! They are TOTALLY ineffective !!!
    Fact #2 All Vaccines Cause diseases
    Fact #3 All Vaccines Spread the diseases that people are injected with
    Fact #4 All Vaccines Destroy the immune system & nervous system
    Fact #5 All Vaccines Can Kill within 3 hours
    Fact #6 Vaccine toxins, remaining from childhood, cause serious diseases in adults
    Fact #7 All vaccines, including mercury-free ones, are toxic, & can cause autism
    Fact #8 Vaccination is the number one cause of cot death
    Fact #9 GOOD HEALTH is the only immunity!
    Fact #10 Vaccines are tested on animals in cruel, painful useless experiments
    Fact # 11 Vaccines are grown in animal tissues
    Fact # 12 Vaccines contain factory-farmed animal products
    Fact # 13 All animal products contain vaccine toxins
    Fact # 14 So-called Shaken Baby Syndrome is usually caused by vaccinations
    Fact # 15 Autism etc is caused directly or indirectly by vaccines by:
    … *1 The vaccine toxins in the animal products consumed by the parents
    … *2 The vaccine toxins in the parents, which remain from childhood
    … *3 The swine flu vaccine etc given during pregnancy
    … *4 The vaccines given to newborns
    ….*5 The so-called vitamin K injection/drops, which contains toxins, not vitamin K

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