I’ll start by apologising to those readers who have clicked onto this blog to read about the ‘vaccine debate’. That’s because, in one sense, there really is no debate. Not at all. Vaccines are easily one of the greatest inventions of all time.
Vaccines save lives. And not on a small scale. On a massive scale (as demonstrated by this report from the CDC in the USA, click here). They have completely eradicated one human disease in Smallpox, a disease which killed around half a billion people in the 20th century. Vaccines have also drastically reduced the incidence of other diseases such that, as a doctor qualifying in 1995, I had, until recently, never seen a single case of measles. Regrettably, I have now.
Let me go on to highlight a hypothetical situation. At the moment, there are numerous charities and research institutes attempting to discover cures for all forms of cancer. Let’s imagine that, in the next few years, they are successful and that very soon it is possible to have a series of injections which offer complete protection against cancer. Consider a world where no-one dies of cancer. Then imagine the scenario, let’s say 50 years after the last recorded cancer death, that someone erroneously questions the safety of the protective injections (they are alleged to cause colour blindness or eczema). Some people accept these falsehoods and decline the injections. Accordingly, doctors then start to see the re-emergence of a disease which they have never experienced or treated before. Moreover, people start dying of cancer again.
To most people, especially those who have been affected by the blight of cancer, the scenario above is both ridiculous and abhorrent in equal measures. Even if the cancer-protective injections really caused colour blindness in, let’s say, 1 in 110 people, would that discourage you from having them? I hope not. Yet that is where we find ourselves in terms of vaccines. And children (and adults) are dying as a result. There are currently numerous measles outbreaks around the world, including in Germany and the USA.
If there truly is a ‘vaccine debate’ then it centres around the reasons why parents are failing to vaccinate their children against pernicious diseases. We’ll look at those reasons in part II of this blog.
If you have any questions or suggestions that you would like me to cover in this series of vaccine blogs, please tweet or e-mail me with your comments. Many thanks