The messy measles in Wales and Nigeria

Anti-vaccine activists will tell you that “vaccines didn’t save us” or that it was advances in hygiene and sanitation that caused the decline of what we in the real world call vaccine-preventable diseases. Yes, it is very possible that hygiene and sanitation have prevented some VPDs, but not all VPDs, and not the majority of VPDs. Proof? Look at what is happening in Wales right now.

“Public health officials say confirmed measles cases have risen to 588 in the south Wales outbreak, which is centered on Swansea. The latest figure shows 47 new cases of the disease since Wednesday, although this is less than half the increase of the previous week.”

In case you’re geologically geographically challenged, Wales is part of the United Kingdom on the island known as Great Britain. It is part of the European Union. In short, it’s not the Third World. According to the CIA World Factbook:

“The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is the third largest economy in Europe after Germany and France.”

Yeah, they’re well off, and their hygiene and sanitation services must be pretty good as well. (Although, to be fair, I’ve never been to Wales.) Nevertheless, we have that huge outbreak of measles in Wales. Why?

Like any other problem, the lack of herd immunity against measles in Wales is a multifaceted problem. That article from the BBC goes on:

“Before the introduction of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination in 1988, about half a million children caught measles and about 100 died from it each year in the UK.

But concerns over the jab’s safety were raised a decade later when surgeon Andrew Wakefield published a since discredited paper in The Lancet suggesting MMR was linked with an increased risk of autism.”

What did Wakefield say or do? Although his followers like to claim that he never associated the MMR vaccine with autism, he associated the MMR with autism:

“It has now also been shown that use of the MMR vaccine (which is taken to include live attentuated measles vaccine virus, measles virus, mumps vaccine virus and rubella vaccine virus, and wild strains of the aforementioned viruses) results in ileal lymphoid nodular hyperplasia, chronic colitis and pervasive developmental disorder including autism (RBD), in some infants.”

As a result, parents questioned the safety and the need for the MMR vaccine and the level of immunized people declined, taking herd immunity with them. And now we have this rather large outbreak.

Then again, the Welsh should be happy that they have the means and resources to deal with this outbreak. It’s a whole other story in Nigeria:

“An ongoing measles outbreak, which killed 36 children and infected over 4,000 in northern Nigeria between 16 February and 9 March, has been linked to a drop-off in immunizations due to vaccine shortages in regional health clinics and widespread suspicion of the vaccine, say government health officials.

Many parents have declined to vaccinate their children against measles as they believe the vaccine is harmful, according to Ado Mohammed, director-general of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).”

Go back up and read that again. Read the number of cases and the number of deaths, especially the number of deaths. Dead children are truly “gone” and will never be held in the loving arms of their parents, ever again, as in never, ever. And what made them worry about vaccines? Was it Wakefield? I can’t say for sure, but, surely, he didn’t help. And he has been active in the Somali community in Minnesota, telling them that autism has a “cause” and even a “cure”:

“At a Somali community meeting in Minneapolis, Wakefield asked his audience to participate in a study. He told about a hundred people gathered at a Somali-owned restaurant that they could help find the cause of autism.

“It is solvable, it has a cause, it had a beginning and it must have an end,” Wakefield said. “We cannot accept the damage that is being done to all of these children. It is completely unacceptable and the suffering you’re going through.” …

Wakefield said that there are no known cases of autism in Somalia, an anecdotal observation many Somalis confirm. But there’s some evidence Somali children in Minnesota might have a higher rate of autism than the general population.”

We live in a world that is getting smaller and smaller as mass media and social media grow. It is very reasonable to think that statements from the anti-vaccine organizations and people like Wakefield make it to Africa and beyond, scaring people away from vaccines, leading to what we are seeing in Wales and Nigeria… And Pakistan.

True to their nature, anti-vaccine activists will tell you that it’s a matter of personal and parental “choice” whether or not to vaccinate. That’s a load of [expletive], plain and simple. When you hurt herd immunity, you hurt all of us, you trigger epidemics where thousands get sick unnecessarily and children die. You have a responsibility to your neighbors and your community. This [expletive] excuse that you want to be free is just that, [expletive]. Do you really think that your action — or inaction — here in wholesome America won’t affect anyone else in your town, let alone the world?

If you think I’m angry, you are correct.

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4 thoughts on “The messy measles in Wales and Nigeria

  1. “Nevertheless, we have that huge outbreak of measles in Wales. Why?”

    Laverbread.

    More seriously, Nigeria has nothing to do with Wakefield. Northern Nigeria, which is majority Muslim, harbors a great deal of suspicion toward vaccines and the West in general (Nigeria only gained independence from Britain in 1960). A decade ago, Kano State halted polio vaccination for a year over concerns that it was a sterilization plot. The Pfizer Trovan trial probably didn’t help much, either: http://goo.gl/qB5K8

  2. I was just looking at the population of Wales (3 million)-versus-the population of the United States (314 million).

    The number of measles cases within the Swansea area of Wales in just the first 3 months of 2013 is mind boggling, compared to the number of confirmed cases (222), during calendar year 2011 in the United States.

    Does Wales have mandatory vaccine laws/regulations for day care/school entry? If so, are those regulations rigidly enforced? How utterly sad that the U.K. was declared “endemic for measles” in 2008…after 14 years of being classified as “non-endemic for measles”.

    How many more trips to Minneapolis did Wakefield and his operative make, both before and during, the 2011 measles outbreak among Somali-American Children who were deliberately not vaccinated?

    http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/118547569.html?refer=y

    And, that notorious anti-vaccine blog has a Somali parent of an autistic child from Minneapolis, who is listed as a “Contributing Editor”, and who posted an atrocious defense of Wakefield after that Star Tribune health blog appeared.

  3. I’ve been following this on the BBC. It would appear that the local paper for that area of Wales conducted a vigorous campaign against the use of MMR at the time.
    It would appear to have been successful, or not.

    A minor nit pick, shouldn’t “geologically challenged” be geographically challenged?

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