Measles Outbreak In Europe Linked To Low Vaccination Rates

Anti-vaxxers are bringing measles back, and no one really knows how to act.

Romania has seen nearly 3,400 cases of measles since February 2016, and 17 children have already died. The country’s vaccination rate is only 86%, well below the 95% recommended for ‘herd immunity’ against infectious disease. Their vaccination rate has dropped dramatically over the last decade thanks to the anti-vaccination movement. Romania has Europe’s highest measles infection rate and its fifth lowest vaccination rate.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles was most common in parts of Romania with the lowest vaccination rates. Italy, also experiencing some of its lowest vaccination rates, has Europe’s second-highest measles infection rate at 200 cases this year already; 844 cases were reported in 2016 alone. Hungary, although not cited as a cause for a national epidemic, has reported a startling 31 cases of suspected measles as well, but it’s not as disturbing as the 575 cases in the UK over the last year. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control warned this week that “the likelihood of exportation of measles [from Romanian] cases is high,” while the WHO reported that the infection can now be considered an epidemic; on top of Romania and Italy, there are high numbers of measles in France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, and Ukraine additionally.

In 2013, UNICEF expressed concerns about the anti-vaccine messages on social media networks in central and eastern Europe. The region had successfully kept diseases like polio and measles at bay, but UNICEF warned that “this had led to complacency toward the diseases and has unfortunately made vaccines, rather than the diseases, the focus of debate and discussion.” WHO’s updated data was released at the end January and showed that the number of preventable diseases was rising sharply.

Of the 32 European countries that have reported measles since February 2016, 22 had measles vaccination rates below 95%. In January 2017, 84% of Europe’s measles cases happened in seven countries who have vaccination rates under 95%.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s even spread to Canada, where Toronto Public Health officials have issued a warning to people who flew on a number of WestJet or Emirates Airline flights earlier this month due to three confirmed cases in the Toronto and Greater Toronto Area. WestJet stated that they are starting to contact travelers who may have been exposed as soon as possible. After a confirmed case in the Ontario suburb of Oakville, and six cases in the eastern province of Nova Scotia, Allison McGeer, medical director of infection control at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, said that the most important thing for people to be clear on is what their vaccine status is and to ensure that they are up to date.

I don’t understand how this is still a discussion. This isn’t rocket science: people stopped immunizing their kids, and then lo and behold, measles is suddenly on the rise. Why do anti-vaxxers still think a couple of google searches makes them more intelligent than doctors? It’s gotten to the point where kids are dying. How can these idiots justify their logic?

Measles is a highly contagious and pretty terrifying disease. There is no treatment for measles, only prevention- through vaccines. A little discomfort with one little shot, and you can easily avoid the high fever, runny nose, cough, sore red eyes, and rash that comes with the illness. One in three people develop complications with measles as well, such as ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea and even inflammation of the brain.

But no, all of those symptoms and side effects are not as important as preventing autism, right? Because that’s clearly the worst thing that could ever happen to a family (sarcasm).

I’m just so fed up with this argument. I agree that we should always be questioning what we hear, but if someone provides you fact-based evidence proving a point, you shouldn’t just wave your hands and say “but this random website told me this!” Yes, some vaccines may contain traces of aluminum and mercury, but it has been proven time and time again that the thimerosal in the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine (MMR) does not cause autism. Andrew Wakefield, who sparked the stupid debate in the first place, was banned from practicing medicine after it was proven that he had shown “callous disregard” for children during his research. Additionally, his research was funded by lawyers suing manufacturers on behalf of families with autistic children. I could not think of a bigger conflict of interest, except for the fact that Wakefield was also attempting to patent his own MMR vaccines.

All that aside, here’s the main thing I hate about this argument: these anti-vaxxers are essentially saying that autism is worse than a life-threatening disease- a contagious one at that. Seriously people? I don’t even know where to start when addressing this ignorant perspective.

Look, there are side effects with all medications, including vaccines. I’m not dismissing some of these severe cases of allergies or unfortunate circumstances of people’s lives being negatively affected by unintentional side effects. But the fact of the matter is, vaccines are designed to help more people than they hurt. There is a select group of the population who cannot be vaccinated due to various reasons (i.e. compromised immune systems, allergies, age, etc.) and they rely on most people being vaccinated for protection. The fact that some people who can be vaccinated are choosing to forego them is a terrible choice. As previously discussed, this has led to the reemergence of pertussis infections, colloquially known as whooping cough, who are finding victims in infants younger than three months. And now we have measles coming back, killing children.

I honestly don’t know what else we can do to fight this idiocy. People are dying from completely preventable diseases, and yet there’s a movement dedicated to fighting the very medication that can stop them. Next thing you know, we’re going to have polio and smallpox to fight again. Anti-vaxxers, are you happy?

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