Vaccines for a Healthy Community

English: Edward Jenner (1749-1823), Discoverer...

Edward Jenner discoverer of vaccination. Image via Wikipedia

The anti-vaxxer movement (AVM) just won’t lie down and die. Its proponents are misinformed, wilful and stubborn about their perception of and insistence on their individual rights as distinct from the communal rights that their societies are entitled to expect of the individuals that form part of the societies. These are the communities in which the anti-vaxxers and the rest of us live our lives, enjoy a semblance of security and reap benefits of various sorts. We don’t expect to run into hitherto eradicated diseases because some community members arc up at vaccination and carry on dictating their human rights in a totally inappropriate arena.

It is the sheer arrogance and ignorance of these people that makes me liken them to religites. Under the guise of so called ‘personal choice’, they wilfully put whole communities at risk of infectious diseases by refusing vaccination for their offspring. That is unconscionable in anyone’s language. Especially in a language that has written cogent research papers about the efficacy of inoculation against disfiguring and fatal diseases that spread like wild fire amongst closely knit communities. The public health officials are trying to eradicate the potential for epidemics after all. The research scientists are of immense value in isolating and developing remedial measures.

And then these selfish, individualistic and socially inadequate people want to take the rest of the communities back to the 1800s before disease was even identified as emanating from bacteria and viruses. Germ theory was in its infancy, not really coming into its own until Koch’s Postulates in 1890.

The ant-vaxxers tend to be white, middle class and/or religite First Worlders. Most have never seen, and certainly don’t appear to understand, the threat of these diseases in developing countries and, by extension, into their own communities.

Immunisation programmes in the developed countries have minimised outbreaks of virulent viral and bacterial infections and this current generation has no knowledge of and has never seen the devastation of major outbreaks. They should count themselves lucky and keep their communities’ health stable. Deadly Choices by Paul Offit details how the AVM threatens our communities and the hard won battles we have waged against disease. This link is a late edit: I only found out about it today (10 Jan.2012). It is an interactive algebraic model showing the different effects within communities of immunisation and non-immunisation. Click through the different scenarios and watch what happens.

But no, they sit on their high horse and try to dictate personal choice against communal health. There are very few Andrew Wakefields among them. But they have done immense and very wilful damage. It took a long time to have Wakefield struck off the Medical Practitioners’ register. The damage that man has done to public health is immeasurable. Then there are the Meryl Doreys of the world and the idiots that she associates with. This article by David Gorksi reprinted on Richard Dawkins’ web site mentions the others especially in the US.

Smallpox virus

Smallpox virus. Image by Sanofi Pasteur

English: Smallpox victim, Illinois, 1912

This is smallpox. Image via Wikipedia

When I think of the incredibly organised global effort by WHO to eradicate diseases like small pox, my heart sinks at the prospect of the anti-vaxxers undoing all that work. The following is taken from the WHO web site.

Ten years after the launching of the intensified plan to eradicate smallpox by WHO, the last instance of smallpox infection by natural route was recorded in Somalia, Africa. The very last patient of smallpox–from laboratory acquired infection–died in Birmingham, United Kingdom in 1978.

The global eradication of smallpox was certified, based on intense verification activities in countries, by a commission of eminent scientists in December 1979 and subsequently endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 1980.

For the past 30 years, populations the world over have breathed a sigh of relief at not having a single case of smallpox in their midst. This became possible because of two major strides in public health over two centuries of human quest: the first by Edward Jenner, a country physician and vaccination pioneer in England in 1798, and the second by WHO in 1958 when the World Health Assembly made the concerted call for global smallpox eradication.’

The Triple Antigen vaccine covers those dreadful diseases of Tetanus, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough and Polio. Anyone who has seen these diseases in action knows how helpless you can feel to alleviate suffering and potential death. Seeing wee babies die because they have contracted a deadly disease from an unvaccinated person at a time when they are too young to be vaccinated themselves is appalling.

I have barrier nursed tetanus patients. Not easy for them. The slightest noise can send their nerves and muscles into fatal spasm. Watching children die is not a pleasant thing to behold. Watching children with polio is not pleasant. Watching anyone in pain, distress and in danger of potential death from viruses and bacteria that can be eradicated makes any thinking, compassionate person determined to utilise all the medical and chemical science available to us to ensure our own children and the larger communities around us are not exposed to these hideous diseases. Tuberculosis is another one. Nearly eradicated and now a newer, more resistant strain crops up to threaten our communities again.

Off we go again, hunting for a way to stem its spread. And it isn’t just in developing countries that public health initiatives keep on adding further disease control to their programmes. This is from the New Australian Immunisation Schedule:

 A new immunisation schedule applying to children born after 1st May 2000 was introduced several years ago. The main change was the introduction of hepatitis B vaccination for infants.

From November 1st 2005, this schedule has been further modified. The most recent changes include the inclusion of polio with the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis injection, universal pneumococcal vaccination and chickenpox vaccination at 18 months. Hepatitis A is also provided for all indigenous children.

The numerous influenza viruses and the burgeoning common cold bacteria are cases in point. Viruses and bacteria mutate very quickly – that is their evolutionary strength, if you like. They have been making a living on this planet for much longer than we have and thousands of them inhabit our bodies. Usually they have a vested interest in keeping us (their host) alive so we can supply nutrient and habitat to them. On their generous side, they help us break down food into usable nutrients for our and their delectation!

Make no mistake – there are disadvantageous bacteria and viruses out there. They constitute the vast number of different species in this world. And they will survive long after we have overseen our own demise.

Should people with colds be expected to wear masks to prevent infecting others as Pascal Wallisch indicates?  A resounding yes from me.

This link repeats the question that Wallisch asks:

Pascal Wallisch  Should people with colds be expected to wear masks to prevent infecting others? My question is: Should this paradigm be extended to things beyond vaccination? Something that comes to mind immediately this time of year is coughing/being sick and wearing masks to prevent the infection of others. It does make a big difference. See this “paper” published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the related Schlieren imaging videos (below is one frame).

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMicm0904279

It is time that we started assuming some responsibility for the larger coherent community than just our own family structure. While there are those who only extend the responsibility for communal health to those who wish to not become infected, I have to say that that is not good enough. Those who know they are infectious also have a responsibility to the larger community to protect the members of that community from their infection.

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6 comments on “Vaccines for a Healthy Community

  1. Jack says:

    Hello Vee

    Thank you for another interesting article. Having lived for many years in the Netherlands and having seen the devastating polio epidemics which swept through some of the deeply conservative religious communities there I agree with most of what you say.
    I think that in some cases though it is not a stubborn insistence on personal liberty that stops people having their children vaccinated – the MMR vaccine being one example – but a fear that the vaccine is not safe. There is a lack of trust in the political establishment which leads some to think that if a politician says X then Y must be the case and therefore protestations that MMR is safe are met with scepticism.

    Wouldn’t wearing a mask exclude anyone with a cold from going into a bank or an airport?

    Just a thought.

    Jack

    • Veronique says:

      Well I do think think that the fear-mongering touted by the Meryl Doreys of the world and the pure, unadulterated greed exhibited by Andrew Wakefield certainly inflamed the misinformation and fears in people with regard to MMR and autism.

      The fact that Wakefield fooled The Lancet as well shows a lack of diligence on the part of the medical fraternity and, I suppose, the political structure. But the inflaming of public dissension was a deliberate act by Wakefield and was unconscionable.

      I know that Joe Public tends to listen to rumour and apocryphal stories that take on the mantle of ‘truth’ and that education isn’t ever going to cut the mustard. People are also drawn to fear-mongering and conspiracy theories so possibly nothing will ever help.

      Interesting thought on masks. Nose and mouth masks aren’t in quite the same league as balaclavas though. I would think that masking is a small price to pay for customer and staff protection and can be removed if required. The other thing, of course, is that hands leave behind bacteria on surfaces and these bacteria can live quite some time and are easily transferred.

      Combating the remarkable facility with which viruses and bacteria complete their life cycles tests human ingenuity. My guess is, despite our best efforts, the pesky microbes will triumph!! Hahaha. Oh how the mighty are fallen.

    • Veronique says:

      Actually Jack – I have just thought of a big problem with having masks available on public transport.

      People who have their germs already all over their hands will contaminate the pristine masks on offer at transport stations. So it could be a nil effect or a blip.

      I did think of having masks in my handbag and upon being surrounded by a sneezer, just offer the mask as a remedial measure. The hunter gatherer thought that I might suffer a broken nose if I did that!! So I now lift my scarves to my nose and mouth region whenever any one coughs, splutters or otherwise disseminates germs in my direction.

      I am told that a sneeze issues from the mouth at 100 mph. That’s a very good evolutionary method of transportation for reproduction success. Much more effective than sexual congress!!

  2. Dod says:

    “Should people with colds be expected to wear masks to prevent infecting others as Pascal Wallisch indicates? A resounding yes from me.”

    And from me, but I’d go further. I think such uncaring people should be compelled to wear a mask if mingling in public as an obvious carrier of contagion. Public awareness should be raised such that offenders would be shamed and shunned for behaving in such a selfish way; police could be given powers to fine those who persist. Employers should be required to send workers home if the come “bravely” to work with a cold.

    Jack says. “Wouldn’t wearing a mask exclude anyone with a cold from going into a bank or an airport? ”

    Yes Jack, it would exclude them and it should exclude from any public place! Perhaps if they adhered to sensible precautions they wouldn’t have caught cold in the first instance!

  3. Rossi Lyons says:

    Good article Ronnie and I agree with your position on the ignorant uninformed people like Meryl Dorey who prtpetuate fear and misinformation. Unfortunately many of the people who espouse non-vaccination had responsible parents themselves who made sure they were vaccinated and never experienced the horror of a communicable disease first hand.
    Having worked with children who contracted measles encephalitis and life long brain damage. I have no time for those parents who would risk their child’s health and well being for an indefensible moral position that endangers everyone else’s children as well. Remember too all the polio victims some of whom are now experiencing a resurgence of the disease after a life of restricted movement and discrimination.

  4. Veronique says:

    This is the point, I think. That the Meryl Doreys were vaccinated and have never seen an outbreak of infectious deadly diseases sweep through communities.

    Mind you, Rossi – I don’t think Dorey is uninformed. She knows full well what the arguments are and is wilful, like Wakefield. Some of their followers may be uninformed and unaware of the ramifications of non-vaccinated communities. If the un-vaccinated numbers grow it won’t be all that long before diseases start to crop up again.

    I didn’t realise that you had worked with children who were affected by communicable diseases.

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