‘Unprecedented’ rise in measles

January 9, 2009 at 8:42 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Media) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The BBC has reported that “there were 1,217 cases of measles from January to November 2008, the highest figure for over a decade.” Report. The HPA press release is here and includes the following quotes (my bold):

We are still seeing a continued increase in measles cases across England and Wales. This rise is due to relatively low MMR vaccine uptake over the past decade and there are now a large number of children who are not fully protected with MMR. This means that measles, which is highly infectious, is spreading easily among these unvaccinated children

Although MMR coverage is starting to improve, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal. Delaying immunisation puts children at risk

…we shouldn’t forget that the children who weren’t vaccinated many years ago are at real risk. Measles is a very serious infection as it can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis, even in healthy children. It is highly infectious and can be passed on without direct contact before the rash appears.

“This is why it’s incredibly important to continue to remind parents about the benefits of having their children vaccinated with two doses of MMR for optimum protection. It is never too late to get vaccinated.”

This is exactly why the mainstream media, the anti-vaccinationists (for example pressure groups such as JABS), and Andrew Wakefield have been accused of posing a danger to public health. Scaremongering about a vaccine that prevents serious diseases such as measles is incredibly irresponsible. The media’s MMR hoax is surely at least partly responsible for bringing the vaccine uptake down. This decrease in vaccine uptake has led to measles spreading among unvaccinated children and has brought about the serious consequences that can result from measles infection. This is exactly what responsible scientists were warning everyone would happen if vaccine uptake went down in response to the unwarranted fear that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Did the anti-vaccinationists listen? The mainstream media? Panicky parents? Nope. Panicky parents preferred the mainstream media’s narrative: MMR causes autism. They were also reassured by anti-vaccinationists that measles complications only appear in malnourished children in the third world. The anti-vaccinationists didn’t listen because they had [have] an almost religious belief that vaccines are bad for us. Evidence will not shake their faith because they somehow know the truth. I don’t know why the mainstream media didn’t listen. Possibly because being able to weave a story around a maverick scientist up against the establishment, involving speculation about Baby Leo’s vaccination status, and promoting the opinions of non-experts over those of experienced scientists, doctors and public health officials was too good an opportunity to miss. Possibly because they are simply morons.

More from the HPA on measles: here. The “MMR The facts” website has an informative pdf here. It covers the symptoms and complications of measles, mumps, and rubella and (on page 2) has graphs showing the incidence of these diseases both before and after the introduction of vaccines against them. The BBC report includes a graph showing yearly measles cases from 1996 to November 2008, which is worth taking a look at.


  1. Martin said,

    I’ve quoted you in my own post on this – http://www.layscience.net/node/465

  2. dvnutrix said,

    It brings it all back doesn’t it: Ian Cleverly on Rash Decisions.

    Telling friends in the area of our off-limits household over the past two weeks has produced some interesting reactions; some supportive, some gently chastising, some downright annoyed (in a “how can you be so selfish?” kind of way).

    Maybe we are being selfish. Perhaps we have taken an almighty risk with the health of our children and been lucky to get away with it. We are not totally convinced one way or the other. But we do know that our kids are fighting fit and have made mincemeat of the measles.

  3. jdc325 said,

    Martin – cheers! It’s not often I write anything worth quoting. Some excellent examples of the consequences of measles outbreaks in your post – the numbers of dead children and hospitalised children shows quite vividly just how dangerously wrong Wakefield was and how moronic the media and JABS have been in perpetuating the MMR scare.

    dvnutrix – I remember that article well. Some of the comments (Commander Keen, superburger, Blacktriangle…) were a joy to read – unlike the article itself. The below quote is a good example of the idiocy on display. They had a desire to keep drug out of their babies’ systems until they were strong enough to cope but apparently did not consider the wisdom of allowing them to catch measles or whether their bodies would be able to cope with the disease.

    Our decision was not so much linked to the ongoing debate fuelled by Dr Andrew Wakefield, linking the MMR jab to autism and bowel disorders, as a desire to keep any drugs whatsoever out of our babies systems until they were strong enough to cope with them.

    There was also an excellent post that nicely counterpointed Cleverly’s anecdote – here.
    It includes this gem: “…your (and my own) personal experiences with our own children tell us precisely bugger all of value about what goes in the general population.”

  4. Measles - spot the worrying trend « Dr Aust’s Spleen said,

    […] some analysis here. The story has also been well covered in the Bad Science Blogosphere by both jdc and by Martin the Lay […]

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