The website Child Health Safety (something of a misnomer, given their strong antipathy to vaccination) carries a graph of measles deaths that suggests that measles is no longer a danger. The author of the graph seems unwilling to update it to reflect the deaths from measles that have occurred since 2006.
Clifford G Miller, the author of the graph, cites it (and a quote from a website that no longer carries said quote) in the comments section of a recent Guardian article. The graph uses data from 1901 to 1999, but the line continues past 1999 and dips below one death per 55 million at 2006. This clearly suggests that measles deaths will be less than 1 in 55 million in the years following 2006. As the population of England and Wales is around 55 million, this equates to zero deaths.
Indeed, Miller cites the graph to support his claim that it is “just not true” that children will die from measles. In responding to his question, I asked if he could cite a webpage that currently carried the other claim he quoted (which he linked to the Tornado & Storm Research Organisation). He has, for whatever reason, ignored this request. I also wrote this:
It’s perhaps worth mentioning, though, that even with vaccination coverage at 80% plus, the population in England and Wales (around 55 million) saw deaths from measles in 2006, 2007, and 2008. [Source of figures: HPA.]
It seems staggeringly unlikely that with vaccine coverage of 0% rather than 80% we would see a drop in deaths from measles.
The fifteen deaths a year in the early 1980s (when the population in England and Wales was ~50 million: Census PDF) would equate to a risk of death by measles in a population with vaccine coverage 45-60% approximately 15 times that allegedly estimated by the Tornado & Storm Research Organisation for a population with vaccine coverage 0%.
The more I look at the facts, the less likely that claimed estimate appears to be. Perhaps it should be either (a) corroborated or (b) removed from the Child Health Safety website.
Miller responded to my comments on the deaths in 2006, 2007, & 2008 when vaccine coverage was at least 80% and my remark that it “seems staggeringly unlikely that with vaccine coverage of 0% rather than 80% we would see a drop in deaths from measles” with this:
Really? Follow the evidence. That is not what the statistical shows. Just demonstrates why science wins over what you think is “common sense”:- “Vaccines Did Not Save Us – 2 Centuries of Official Statistics”
Miller seems to think that his “statistical” proves that my intuition (that vaccine coverage of 0% will not lead to a decrease in deaths from measles compared with the vaccine coverage of at least 80% in the years that several people died from measles) is wrong.
Actually, my surprise at his claim was partly based on the fact that despite Miller claiming that measles deaths are no longer an issue, HPA figures show four deaths from measles in the three years I had referred to.
According to Miller’s “statistical”, these deaths from measles should not have occurred. For the purposes of Miller’s argument, these actual deaths appear not to count and the imaginary zero risk conjured up by continuing to draw a line through a graph is all that matters. These deaths were not predicted by Millers’s graph. That didn’t stop them from happening, though.
I asked Miller if he would update the graph to reflect the unpredicted deaths that had occurred. Here is his response:
You have been shown here to be someone who visits and runs parent/doctor bashing sites.
Now you turn up with trivia.
I was a little surprised to see Miller characterise deaths from measles from 2006 onwards as “trivia” and “boring”. It seemed a touch insensitive – particularly coming from a man so sensitive as to believe that a single instance of referring to John Stone as “drearily ubiquitous” proved beyond doubt that I was a “parent basher”.
Miller shows a callous disregard for the lives lost in recent years due to measles infection. He also seems utterly unconcerned that the graph he is so fond of citing is out-of-date and inaccurate.
Update, 28th June 2010
Clifford G Miller has pointed me to a comment on Child Health Safety. Whoever wrote this comment should be ashamed of themselves (the author of the comment is listed as “childhealthsafety”).
First, they accuse me of “attacking people” (not a description of the criticisms I have made that I recognise). I’m also accused of being a troll, a defamer, and of disseminating gross misinformation. Then it gets interesting – they claim that my comments are misleading and I omit crucial information.
In my post above, I specifically refer to deaths in 2006, 2007, & 2008. At least two of these deaths were due to acute measles. Other deaths since 1992 were due to the late effects of measles from infections acquired during the 1990s or earlier when vaccination rates were below the level required for herd immunity and epidemics of measles occurred. Link.
The CHS comment fails to recognise that the fact that measles deaths are still occurring from infections acquired during the 1980s when vaccination coverage was low enough to allow outbreaks to occur helps to highlight the case for vaccination.
People are still dying from measles infections acquired prior to the introduction of MMR. Whoever is behind CHS wants us to go back to the days before MMR, when measles epidemics occurred that led to deaths from both acute measles infection and late effects of measles.
The CHS comment also classes the deaths from acute measles as ‘irrelevant’: “there have been no relevant deaths from measles infections acquired since 1992”. Those deaths from acute measles are relevant though – they would not have occurred had there been no measles outbreaks.
If vaccination rates had been high enough in the years from 2000 (and I suspect they would, had Andrew Wakefield, the mainstream media, and lobbyists such as Jabs and CHS not done such sterling work for the anti-vaccine campaign), then there would have been fewer infections with measles and (perhaps) we might have seen zero deaths from acute measles infection. (A rate inaccurately predicted by CHS)
That take-up of measles-containing vaccine (specifically MMR) was high enough from 1992 onwards to prevent outbreaks and any deaths from acute measles infection shows that the vaccine was doing precisely what was expected of it – reducing incidence of measles and lowering the risk of death from acute measles infection.
That deaths due to acute measles have occurred since vaccination levels dropped shows just how dangerously wrong Child Health Safety, Clifford Miller, John Stone, and Jabs really are.