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Still more evidence that infectious disease returns when vaccination rates fall

This time, the evidence comes from New Zealand:

Notified measles cases so far this year are already seven times higher than the total number of measles cases last year.

The reason? The third-lowest immunisation rate in the OECD, despite the fact immunisation is free and widely and readily available. Our immunisation rate is about 83 percent – to be effective it needs to be 95 percent.

This video goes into more detail.

Whenever vaccination rates fall below the threshold of herd immunity, the door is left open for diseases once thought vanquished to return with a vengeance, first through localized outbreaks and then in a more widespread fashion. It’s happened in the U.K., where measles was thought to be under control 14 years ago and was declared endemic again last year after nearly a decade of fear mongering about the MMR vaccine from Andrew Wakefield, aided and abetted by the British press. If we keep it up letting Jenny McCarthy and other know-nothings in the anti-vaccine movement frighten parents with misinformation and pseudoscience, it could very well happen here too.

Don’t think it can’t.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

14 replies on “Still more evidence that infectious disease returns when vaccination rates fall”

And the comments following the TV3 post that you link to are just as bad as anything you’ve described in the US, Orac. MMR-autism links, measles parties for goodness’ sake. Foolishness knows no boundaries…

This comment appeared in a news report here in New Zealand this week. As they seem to do everywhere, the reporter felt compelled to get a comment from the ‘other side’ of the story, and this spokeswoman’s obvious ignorance, stupidity, and selfishness pretty much sums up the anti-vax liars and their ridiculous agenda:

“Immunisation Awareness Society spokeswoman Michelle Rudgley said it should be a parent’s right, not the government’s, to decide whether their child was exposed to infection.

She said parents who decided against vaccinating their children did so after weighing up the risks and benefits.

They often decided that if their children were exposed to viruses they would acquire lifelong immunity, compared with vaccinations that provided limited immunity, Rudgley said.”

Well, clearly Ms Rudgeley doesn’t give a damn about babies too young to be vaccinated, and immuno-compromised children such as those undergoing chemotherapy.In fact she clearly doesn’t give a damn about any child who isn’t her own.

Come to think of it, she doesn’t appear to give much of a damn about her own children either.

People like Ms Rudgely should somehow be given access to the measles virus to deliberately infect their children – then locked away for the duration of the illness with no access to drugs or expert medical care in the event complications should occur. This way they can have the pleasure of watching their children suffering unneccesarily, and not compromise the offspring of those of us who care enough to vaccinate.

Wow, damn, my compatriots are bringing some new kind of crazy…

I hate when this sort of thing comes up. NZ is actually pretty good about vaccination, or so I thought. When I was in high school (only a few years ago) every kid my age was given the three required shots of MeNZB, and Gardasil was adopted far more readily than the US… but obviously not everyone is getting the message.

Maybe this is some sort of payback for Ray Comfort?

If I recall correctly, NZ was, until recently, noteworthy for its low vaccination rates. Clearly, things have been improving, but now it sounds like they’ve gone into reverse.

Another favorite of the anti-vaxers is the claim that vaccination causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. NZ helped to give the lie to this; rates of SIDS had been high in NZ, but began to drop at around the same time that vaccination rates increased. Gotta love it.

Antivax Misinformation Alert, Orac– This isn’t New Zealand; alas it’s in today’s Washington Post. Their Family advice columnist Marguerite Kelly is telling people who suspect they have a child with autism in their family to educate themselves!… by looking around for a DAN! doctor and by reading Jenny McCarthy’s book.

It would be really great if we could all write letters to the Post about this.

For substandard reporting and apparently astonishing cluelessness by one of the parties interviewed, try this story on a safety study of Gardasil, the anti-HPV vaccine designed to greatly reduce incidence of cervical dysplasia and cancer:

The article fails to educate readers on the very preliminary and unfiltered nature of the reports of possible adverse vaccine reactions in the VAERS database, saying that approximately 20 deaths reported to VAERS “aren’t necessarily” connected to the vaccine. It’s hard to see any logical connection when deaths occur in widely disparate settings, like diabetic ketoacidosis, prescription drug abuse and influenza B infection.

And the article features this statement from an “infectious diseases expert” in Norway:

“I wouldn’t accept much risk of side effects at all (from the vaccine) in an 11-year-old girl, because if she gets screened when she’s older, she’ll never get cervical cancer,” Dr. Haug said in an interview. “You don’t have to die from cervical cancer if you have access to health care.”

Wow, Pap and HPV testing have completely eliminated cervical cancer? This is quite a revelation for physicians who work with these very helpful but imperfect tests.

The Times, which has a good editorial stance on vaccination, failed in this case to present scientifically literate reporting.

@NZ Sceptic
…clearly Ms Rudgeley doesn’t give a damn about babies too young to be vaccinated, and immuno-compromised children such as those undergoing chemotherapy.In fact she clearly doesn’t give a damn about any child who isn’t her own.

Sorry but I’m not going to subject my healthy child to 50+ doses of vaccine to protect your baby from each and every imaginable risk. I’m really selfish! If you’re worried keep your baby away from people. It’s your child and it’s your resposnibility.

@ D Bacon
Wow, Pap and HPV testing have completely eliminated cervical cancer? This is quite a revelation for physicians who work with these very helpful but imperfect tests.

Where does anyone say that? You Sciencebloggers have a habit of attacking arguments that only exist in your imaginations. The simple fact is that ninety percent of those contracting cervical cancer have not had a pap smear in the previous five years

In addition to being completely clueless, Sid Offit has no children. Just consider s/he/it as able to discuss measles as well as any dining room table.

Just consider s/he/it as able to discuss measles as well as any dining room table.

Your writing skills are astonishing

Sid: I take it you also ignore the traffic laws, because they’re “forced” upon you for the greater good?

Or are you the holder of a patent for new “baby bubbles” for children who can’t be exposed to infectious diseases?

There are a few problems in New Zealand when it comes to the free immunization schedule.

1. General dislike of professional opinions- anybody with advanced degrees in a subject is a wonk and their opinion is automatically suspect. This is part of the tall poppy effect. When applied to the immunization debate this means equal weight is given to professionals and any crazed wingnut who can put together a press release.

2. Primary Healthcare Barrier. Whilst immunization is largely free the visit to primary care is not. Critical care is very good in NZ but for some reason primary care is badly subsidized. Coupled with a low wage economy this results in people having a high threshold for visiting primary care. The poor support for child-raring and the national obsession with getting a massive mortgage also means that families with young children will usually have very limited disposable income. Consequently immunization may slip down the list of affordable ‘luxuries’.

3. NZ used to have a very good child and mother health system called Plunket. I understand this is not as well funded as it used to be?

Children under age 6 get subsidies for visiting the doctor. And child immunisation is free.

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