Anti-vaccine activists responsible for the Swansea measles outbreak

Andrew Wakefield should be rotting in a prison cell. But he is not – he is making big bucks speaking to groups of anti-vaxxers. Telegraph Science reporter Tom Chivers updates with this lead:

MMR does not cause autism. The Swansea measles outbreak shows the damage this idiotic scare has caused.


Last week the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the results of a study which put to rest the last claim of the anti-vaccination brigade: that multi-vaccination jabs such as MMR overload the child’s immune system. The study, which examined 1,000 children who had had their jabs, either all together or spread out over several months, found that the children who had autistic-spectrum disorders were no more likely to have had more jabs, or a more concentrated programme of them, than those who did not. “Our study found no relationship with the number of vaccine antigens received and overall ASD [Autistic Spectrum Disorder]” the study’s lead author, Frank de Stefano, said.

Of course, this hasn’t satisfied the “anti-vaxers”; one, writing on the website Age of Autism, claimed that “The [CDC] study is to science what the movie Ishtar [a notorious box-office flop] was to cinema.”

According to a small, but vociferous, part of the population, vaccines do cause autism, and to hell with the evidence. If the fact that there was no sudden increase in autism in Britain after the introduction of the MMR in 1988 (as several studies have shown) didn’t convince them, then the CDC study has no chance. What’s far more worrying than the hard core of campaigners is the large number of parents who, after years of reading headlines linking the two, are understandably concerned about vaccinating their children.

A 2011 American survey found that more than one in five people still thought that vaccines can cause autism; another found that 10 per cent of parents delay or refuse vaccination for their children for that reason. Things are no better here: at the height of the scare, in the early 2000s, vaccination levels in Britain dropped to just 73 per cent.

Dr Ben Goldacre, the author of Bad Pharma, who has written extensively about autism and vaccination, says: “Health scares are like toothpaste: once they’re out, it’s very hard to get them back in the tube. They catch fire fast, because they’re so seductive to journalists. (…) .”

(…) This is a genuine threat. In 1998, pre-Wakefield, there were just 56 cases of measles in Britain. In 2008 there were 1,348. In 2006 a child died of the disease for the first time since 1992; another died two years later – casualties of the MMR hysteria. Before the introduction of the vaccine in 1988, about half a million children caught the disease every year in this country and around 100 died: in about one in 1,000 cases, measles leads to encephalitis, a swelling of the brain, which can lead to blindness, deafness or brain damage, and sometimes death. The virus also causes pneumonia.

Are you as angry as we are? Good, what are you doing about it?


2 thoughts on “Anti-vaccine activists responsible for the Swansea measles outbreak

  1. “….people become almost superstitious…” People *are* superstitious. A large number of people in advanced western societies have pre-Renaissance attitudes about science.

  2. A speaker on PBS pointed out something that is not new information, but bears repeating.

    The human brain is wired to accept information which supports what it already believes and to reject information which opposes what it already believes.

    Of course those of us who make a point of being rational can fairly well compensate for the above, but many people make no effort to compensate. Thus they cling to beliefs even when beliefs have been shown to be irrational.

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