HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Consequences of Failure to Vaccinate

Well, what do you know - if you don't vaccinate children, they get sick and sometimes they die.  Firedoglake's Phoenix Woman provides an update on the increasing number of children suffering from  preventable childhood diseases as a result of a lack of vaccination.  She writes,

Remember measles? Mumps? All the childhood diseases you thought were vanquished forever -- in the developed world, at least? Guess what -- they're making a comeback.

San Diego is in the midst of an outbreak of measles.  (The child in this picture is one of the victims.)  Mumps has been hitting the UK hard since 2005 -- a British soccer team  recently had a player diagnosed with it -- and strains of the UK mumps made their way to Iowa in 2006 and Canada last year.  Measles, once rare in Britain, has also made a comeback in recent years.

Why is all of this happening?   Because a growing number of parents, particularly in Britain and California, are falling under the spell of the anti-vaccination cultists who claim, in spite of repeated debunkings and no actual evidence in their favor, that vaccines are icky and cause autism -- claims opposed by legitimate autism experts

The anti-vaccination promoters, who got their start in the UK in 1998 on the strength of a study that was later debunked six ways from sundown, had started out by blaming only vaccines containing mercury compounds for the alleged "autism epidemic" that in reality is far more likely to be the result of changes in how autism is diagnosed.  But since most of those types of vaccines haven't been used in years and autism hasn't declined as a result, they're now attacking all vaccines. Parents who fall for this don't get their kids vaccinated -- which leaves them easy prey for all the diseases we thought were just bad memories.

None of the child victims in the San Diego measles outbreak were vaccinated.  In fact, two of them attended a charter school with the highest rate of non-vaccination of any campus in San Diego.

Ironies abound in the anti-vax movement. The anti-vaccinators claim that vaccination is done solely for profit -- yet Andrew Wakefield, the researcher whose original flawed 1998 study had its conclusions retracted and denied by ten of his fellow twelve collaborators, started his study in August of 1996 after Richard Barr, a lawyer for a group of parents of autistic children, hired him to do so, and helped get him £55,000 (around $90,000 back then) from the UK's Legal Aid Board -- a serious breach of ethics that Wakefield neglected to mention to The Lancet's editors, who would have never published the study had they known about this ethical conflict. . . .   

UPDATE:  Great minds think alike!  Orac over at Respectful Insolence in the ScienceBlogs complex has this to say today:

In case you haven't heard it enough on this blog and elsewhere: Antivaccination lunacy has consquences. In the UK, measles cases have jumped to a record high:

The number of measles cases in England and Wales jumped more than 30% last year to the highest level since records began in 1995. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) recorded 971 cases during the year - up from 740 in 2006. . . .

As I've pointed out before, this is the true legacy of Andrew Wakefield: Falling vaccination rates, misery and suffering due to the return of vaccine-preventable diseases, and at least one dead child. Ten years later, the effects of his pseudoscience and lack of ethics continue to reverberate in the U.K. The same could happen here in the U.S. if the mercury militia has its way.

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Great post. I especially found it very interesting finding such an additional information on giving vaccination to children. Most often times, many parents ignore this vital medication to be given to children and at the latter end when the children are fully grown, they suffer from some acute ailments.

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