Sir Sandy Macara, the former chairman of the British Medical Association, suggested last week that the MMR vaccine should be made compulsory in the UK, for children wishing to take advantage of a state education. This follows a huge increase in measles cases, which is directly attributable to the decline in vaccination rates, in turn attributable to uncritical reporting of the discredited Wakefield study which linked the MMR vaccine to autism.
As part of their coverage, the BBC’s regular “Have Your Say” feature posed the question “Should the MMR jab be compulsory?”. The comments which followed made my blood boil and my toes curl. So, for your delectation, here is a list of myths I’ve picked up from HYS – with responses.
If it helps, I could hear Mark Crislip’s voice in my head as I wrote this.
Myth #1: Measles is no big deal.
Measles is a big deal. Measles is one of the most infectious diseases we know of. Children who catch measles will be bedridden for a week and away from school for two. Complication rates are about 1 in 15, with complications ranging from pneumonia to encephalitis and death. According to the WHO, measles is the leading cause of childhood mortality from a preventable disease.
Normally, people followed up this comment with; “I had measles when I was a kid — and I survived!” Well, of course you did. Fool. And aren’t you the lucky one? I suppose it never occurred to you that the kids who died of measles aren’t going grow up, log on to Have Your Say, and correct you when you claim measles is no biggie? By definition, the only adults alive today are ones who did not die of measles when they were children.
Myth #2: MMR doesn’t work. My friend’s kid was vaccinated, but caught measles anyway.
You don’t understand vaccination. Vaccination does not erect a force field around your children that magically deflects or destroys viral particles.
Think of it more like a boxing match. It’s Little Johnny Playpen versus Mean Machine Measles. If Johnny has spent some time at the gym, working out with the vaccination punchbag, he stands a much better chance of scoring an early KO on Mean Machine. He still has to fight the fight, and he may still get some cuts and bruises, but the chances are very good that Johnny is going to come out on top.
Myth #3: My kid is vaccinated, so he is safe. I don’t care what other kids do.
Well done on getting your kid vaccinated… but you’re an irresponsible and selfish ass. The important concept you’re ignoring here is herd immunity. When a certain percentage of the population has been vaccinated, the pathogen is unable to spread.
To return to our boxing metaphor, there are so many tough guys around that Mean Machine Measles has left town. This is great news for Timmy Neutropenic, who was too sick to get down to the gym and train for the fight; and also for Katy Newborn, who isn’t old enough to apply for her gym membership.
Myth #4: I’m a mother; I know what is best for my children. Doctor’s don’t know everything!
In no way can or does the act of procreation bestow previously ignorant or uninformed parents with an understanding of complicated medical issues. Doctors may not know everything, but they do know something. It takes a long, long time and a lot of hard, hard work to earn the title of “doctor”.
It makes no sense to take advice on important medical decisions from a person with no medical knowledge, while ignoring advice received from someone with extensive medical knowledge, simply because you understand that knowledge to be incomplete.
Myth #5: The MMR causes autism.
I was really tempted to ignore this one, or just make a snarky remark. Some people still buy this tripe though, so one last time:
- There is no link between MMR and autism.
- THERE IS NO LINK BETWEEN MMR AND AUTISM.
- The Wakefield Study, which kicked off this whole MMR/Autism debacle, has long-since been discredited and debunked.
- When I say discredited, I don’t just mean that Wakefield got it wrong. This wasn’t just bad science – the data was faked.
- If there were a link between MMR and autism, we would expect to see autism rates decline as MMR vaccinations decline. We don’t.
Myth #6: Individual shots for measles, mumps and rubella are safer than the MMR.
Vaccination is an invasive procedure, in that it involves sticking tiny metal tubes through your skin. Any invasive procedure carries risk of infection. Bacteremia, for example. You wouldn’t want to accidentally get bacteria in the blood because someone was a bit sloppy with the hygiene procedures that day.
MMR isn’t just a single shot, it takes two doses to get the best effect. That’s two chances for someone to be sloppy with a needle. If you are going to have three separate vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella – then you need to have six shots overall. That’s six chances for someone to be sloppy with a needle. You’ve just tripled your risk.
Plus, these shots need to be spread out! So it will take longer for the child to obtain the same level of immunity they would have had from the MMR. Who knows what could have happened to them in that time? Maybe Mean Machine will follow someone back from vacation and pick on your kid before he’s spent enough time in the gym to know what he is doing.
AND! Six shots means six trips to the doctor. Who has time to take six trips to the doctor? Six mornings off work? You’ve got to be kidding. Think how easy it would be to “forget” one or two of those mornings off work… and all of a sudden little Tony Lazymum is suffering psychoneurological deterioration as a result of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.
Two trips to the doctor instead of six is more manageable. Parents are less likely to skip shots and then there greater chance of everyone getting the right shots at the right time to protect them.
Myth #7: Vaccination is a conspiracy of Big Science to reduce the population.
Now this is one where I can just leave a snarky comment.
Hahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahaha hahahahah haha hahahahahahahaha!