Harmless childhood diseases?

by endlesspsych

ETA:- Edinburgh skeptics blog on Vaccines: A matter or rights?

It’s something you will oft see on anti-vaxxer websites – childhood diseases are harmless; things like measles, mumps, Pertussis, Rubella, Diptheria, Polio and Tetnus why no more harmful then a dose of the cold or a mild flu… A few days in bed and some calamine lotion and you’ll be fine…

Measles is the “childhood disease” that anti-vaxxers seem most likely to declare harmless – perhaps because of its association with MMR and the fairy story that MMR somehow causes Autism.

Measles is an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus, specifically a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus. Morbilliviruses, like other paramyxoviruses, are enveloped, single-stranded, negative-sense RNA viruses. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a generalized, maculopapular, erythematous rash.

Which sounds unpleasant but doesn’t necessarily sound all that bad does it? So why bother with all this vaccine nonsense? But wait complications are common!

Complications with measles are relatively common, ranging from relatively mild and less serious diarrhea, to pneumonia and encephalitis (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis), corneal ulceration leading to corneal scarring. Complications are usually more severe amongst adults who catch the virus.
These also sound unpleasant and in fairness do actually sound quite bad. But at least you’re not dead though yeah?
The fatality rate from measles for otherwise healthy people in developed countries is 3 deaths per thousand cases, or .3%. In underdeveloped nations with high rates of malnutrition and poor healthcare, fatality rates have been as high as 28%

According to the WHO an estimated 164 000 people died from measles in 2008 – mostly children under the age of five. They also provide the following info:

Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
In 2008, there were 164 000 measles deaths globally – nearly 450 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour.
More than 95% of measles deaths occur in low-income countries with weak health infrastructures.
Measles vaccination resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2008 worldwide.
In 2008, about 83% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.

A simple lesson: Measles harmful, vaccine good.

But, but, but what if the vaccine does cause Autism? Well it doesn’t… There is no scientific evidence to support that conclusion. The whole thing appears to have arisen from one paper written by Dr Andrew Wakefield with flawed methodology and questionable ethics and a good old media panic. Recent studies have shown the rate of ASD in the adult population is the same as the level in children – if the MMR  vaccine was implicated in ASD you’d expect levels to be higher (see BBC news article).

Also if there was some MMR link then you would expect ASD rates to be higher in vaccinated children then in unvaccinated kids. This link has not been observed if explored. Researchers in Denmark looked at the health records of every child born from 1991 through ’98, more than 537,000 children. No matter how researchers analyzed the data, there was no difference in the autism rates of children who received the MMR vaccine and those who did not (See Time Article). Nigh on every epidemiological study done since has drawn similar conclusions – there is no higher rate of ASD in children who have been vaccinated

True we don’t yet understand fully what causes autism or autistic spectrum disorders but this does not mean we should blame everything and anything as if embrolled in some Daily Fail eqsue quest to divide the world into what causes and cures cancer.  ASD is commonly diagnosed in children around the age of 2/3 where their social development diverges from their neutortypical peers – this happens to be when most countries start their vaccination programs. Some people put two and two together and come up with a random number somewhere in the region of five. They take a spurious coincidence and decide that the evil nasty chemical that the doctor, in the pay of big pharma, is administering must cause autism. Perhaps it’s understandable – refrigerator parents used to be blamed for causing autism… Medics don’t always take the time to explain the benefits of vaccination and can sometimes be dismissive of parents concerns. Is it perhaps a wonder woo-sters appear to fill the gaps?

However the fact remains – vaccines are better than the diseases they prevent.

Yet still there appears to be people who don’t get this message. Some of them are marching in Edinburgh (from St. Giles Cathedral to the Scottish Parliament) this Saturday (the 12th of December). I think a few of us, at the least, should pop along and ask them some awkward questions.

For instance – why do they hate children?

(If any0ne wants to meet before hand please leave a comment or get in touch via email – unsure about how open to questions the “protestors” will be but worth a go if we can make even one person watching the demo think about the issues or indeed introduce some of the protestors to the actual evidence…)