Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Friday, May 13, 2005

Anti-vaccination crowd needs a pill

Anti-vaccination crowd needs a pill
By Mindelle Jacobs -- For the Edmonton Sun

It is almost incomprehensible that in the West, where vaccination programs have long been routine, there are still a few morons who refuse to immunize their kids.

The rubella outbreak in southwestern Ontario continues to spread, with more than 120 confirmed cases, including two pregnant women. Nine other expecting women may also have been exposed.

We can't cane these foolish parents for placing their children and the larger community at risk - although I'd sure like to. We can't jail them either. While vaccination is almost universal in Canada, it isn't mandatory.

All we can do, I suppose, is express our disgust that people would use religious or philosophical reasons to turn their backs on a vital part of our public health system.

Consider some statistics from the U.S. National Vaccine Information Centre (NVIC), for instance.

In 1969, there were almost 60,000 reported cases of rubella in the U.S. In 2002, there were only 18 cases.

Rubella, or German Measles, is easily transmitted through coughing or sneezing and usually causes only mild, flu-like symptoms.

But for pregnant women, exposure can be devastating. If a woman is infected in the first trimester of her pregnancy, she has a 20% to 25% greater chance of giving birth to a deformed baby, according to the NVIC.

Birth defects caused by rubella include blindness, heart damage, deafness and mental retardation.

This latest rubella outbreak is thought to have started late last month at a religious Christian school in a small community near London, Ont., where most of the students weren't vaccinated.

For some inexplicable reason, many parents in the area oppose vaccination. How will they feel if one of the pregnant women diagnosed with rubella delivers a baby with severe problems? Will they explain it away as an act of God?

A host of adjectives come to mind to describe such indifference to the lives of their children and others around them. Selfish. Deluded. Dangerous. Ignorant. Feel free to add to the list.

One can only guess what's behind these parents' suspicion and rejection of immunization. The anti-vaccine crowd, after all, is as diverse as any other opposition group.

Trolling through the Internet yesterday, I found dozens of anti-vaccine links.

One site, pumped up with hysteria, charges that the dangers of vaccination to a child's health far outweigh any potential benefits.

"Don't allow your child to go on the chopping block for these liars (the drug companies) and their profit margins," it declares. Please, someone give that guy a tranquilizer.

The weirdest allegation I read was that vaccination is a cover for the insertion of microchips.

Even the Vaccination Risk Awareness Network, a Canadian group that supports informed choice about immunization, suggests there's a link between vaccine additives and autism.

But at least three large studies have shown there is no such association, says Dr. Gerry Predy, the Capital Health Authority's medical officer of health.

There will always be some people who blame vaccinations for their children's health problems, he says.

It's ironic that the anti-vaccine crowd is becoming more vociferous at a time when vaccines are purer and safer than ever before, Predy adds.

Vaccines are victims of their own success because people in the West don't see the devastation that rubella, polio, whooping cough and other diseases cause in poor countries, says Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at the University of Toronto.

"All of the vaccine-preventable diseases are (in the developing world)," she says. "A lot of these people trying to stop vaccinations don't see the consequences."