Saturday, February 27, 2016

Just a tiny prick

Anti-vaxxer: A learned person who has studied the science carefully and come to the conclusion that vaccinating children against common diseases is puts their children at too much of a risk from a reaction to the vaccine.

My definition of anti-vaxxers, tossers who put their own children at risk, along with others. Like with global warming, amateurs seem to know better than the scientists who have studied long and hard and tested products multiple times in so many trials. We I hear respected medical scientists are not vaccinating their own children, then I may review my thoughts.

Children's author Roald Dahl's daughter died, un-vaccinated, from complications suffered during measles. Like when I was young, there wasn't a vaccination for measles in 1962.

Measles: A Dangerous Illness

Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn't do anything.
"Are you feeling all right?" I asked her.
"I feel all sleepy," she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.

On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.
It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk. In America, where measles immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.
Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die.

LET THAT SINK IN.
Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.
So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?
They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.
So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.
The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.

Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was 'James and the Giant Peach'. That was when she was still alive. The second was 'The BFG', dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children. 

36 comments:

  1. Andreww In my country vaccinating children is obligatry. But some people do not obey it and must pay punishment..

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    1. Gosia, people will have government money to support children taken away from them here. That has changed some people's minds.

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  2. Well written Andrew. I do not understand any reluctance when it comes to your child's health. My birthday present to little Emmy last year was a course of vaccinations against Meningitis C (Now available on the NHS for new borns) Best present I could have bought!

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    1. Nor do I understand, Marie. At best, they are misguided and listen to poor advice. I am not sure Meningitis C here. I will ask Bone Doctor when I next see her. Good that it is now on the NHS in your country.

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  3. I am perfectly happy for people not to vaccinate their children. So long as neither they nor their children ever have contact with anyone else.

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    1. EC, yes, and therefore it is impractical. There is still a quite tight religious exemption. Get rid of it.

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  4. I recall as a child the sad situation of children afflicted by polio. These 'anti-vaxxer' parents don't have those memories of the pre-vaccination era. I doubt they would be 'anti-vaxxers', if they did.

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    1. I remember lining up in the school yard for polio vaccinations in grade 3 or 4. It came too late for one of our class who had already fallen ill and spent several years in an iron lung. She rejoined the class in grade 7, with leg braces and one wrist brace.

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    2. Victor, I still see the occasional polio victim. It is awful. I once heard an account from a male doctor whose child caught whooping coffee at about three weeks old. I can't remember if the child lived or not, but his graphic description of his suffering baby brought tears to me eyes.

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    3. Whooping coffee??

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    4. River, it is Saturday night. Give me some slack. Funny though.

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  5. Anonymous10:01 am

    Children who are not immunised can and should be excluded from schools, to protect other families. But families who think immunisation is a government plot to control their children may be the very families who believe in home schooling.

    Those unimmunised children are voiceless and doubly powerless :(

    Hels

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    1. Hels, yes, I would agree with that. I know what you are saying about home schooling, but I also know it is appropriate for some children. You may not agree but nor do I like visibly overt religious practices being forced on children either.

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  6. Oregon is full of anti vaxxers. They apply for exemptions from mandatory vaccinations on religious principle although most have no religious principles about vaccines. They are usually extremely educated know it alls and put everyone else at risk. There are some things you do as duty, to the rest of the herd.

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    1. Strayer, we had so many exemptions, the vaccination system was on the edge of failing in some areas. I thought it would be more the hippie types who were anti vaxxers, but apparently not. As in your state, our anti vaxxers are often quite educated inner suburban people. From what I read, the US has done very well and pretty well eliminated measles.

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  7. Well said Andrew.
    I believe in having children vaccinated, it safes lives, that's why we have the vaccines available to us, as children and adults.
    I remember being in a cue to have the polio vaccine - a sugar coated pink square.
    I recall having a TB injection, Smallpox etc. as when nursing the sick it was compulsory back in my day.
    These days Whooping Cough, Pneumonia and the Flue injection.
    None of them hurt me or anyone I know.
    If those people that don't wish to have their children inoculated against the diseases, their parents would be the first ones to complain and go off their face...if you know what I mean.

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    1. Thanks Margaret. Of course you agree, as you are a sensible person. I don't have a flu vaccination as I once had an unpleasant reaction and still subsequently had a bad cold, which wasn't flu, but bad enough.

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    2. Whooping cough is making a comeback and there are recommendations for adults to be vaccinated again as the vaccine doesn't last for life. Also adults may not know they have it as the characteristic "whoop" only shows in young children and babies.

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  8. I nursed the nephew through measles thanks to sister not remembering the vaccination and he was so ill we had to carry him to the toilet and cover his eyes because he was so photophobic. Thirty years later he managed to contract chickenpox, pustules from head to foot and insane desire to scratch himself raw. 3 visits to emergency before an old time nurse recognized the disease and put him in isolation.
    So many years apart but he still could have died from both diseases.
    People forget that the most infectious time is before the signs appear and this is when other children catch it and pregnant women are most at risk from measles and Rubella.

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    1. Jah Teh, that is late for chickenpox. Remember there was measles and German measles? Much the same, perhaps. Yes, I remember vividly the Rubella warnings.

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    2. Vastly different. German measles is the rubella one which can cause birth defects if caught by pregnant women. This is why a vaccine was developed and recommended for all girls in their first high school year or final primary year. I think they chose age 12 for it. I remember my grand daughter getting her shot.
      The diseases present differently, both beginning with cold type symptoms as almost everything does, but German measles then shows as a pin point rash, similar to prickly heat, and moves from the head downwards. Regular measles has a light sensitivity for the eyes, headache and a blotchy rash, (think how your skin looks blotchy if you sit too close to a heater) blotches can spread to join each other but may not. They are usually raised slightly above skin level.

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    3. River, thanks for the explanation. I had measles but I don't know which type. I don't remember any light sensitivity. Chickenpox was worse.

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  9. My 17yo daughter was part of the Lions Youth of Year comp earlier this week. Part of this involves 2 x 2min impromptu speeches where a question is put to them that they all must answer for 2 mins with no preparation time. One of the questions was on anti-vaxxers and it was encouraging to see that all the competition speakers spoke against the anti-vaxxers, and what they supposedly stood for. Seems the next generation of parents are already far more responsible and more aware about why vaccinations are just so important.

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    1. CM, that is terrific to hear and praise to your daughter. I hope you are right about your daughter's generation, though I suspect there will always be these sorts of cranks around.

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  10. I agree with the scientists, the vaccinations are important. All of my children were vaccinated, my grand children also. Except my youngest son, who caught measles at five months old from another baby in the same hotel we were staying in. We passed in the hall, two mothers with babies in prams and the other, ill baby, sneezed. My baby caught measles:(
    I don't agree with people who say other unvaccinated children are putting their own children at risk. If your child is vaccinated, there will be no risk from an unvaccinated child. He or she, the unvaccinated one, will be the one to suffer.

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    1. River, was there a measles vaccine when your son was born? Apparently vaccines do not give 100% protection and there is the matter of herd immunity and the possibility of just eliminating a disease, as the WHO has with........ah, one of them.

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  11. Yes, but only given at 12 months old. My J was 5 months old. He didn't suffer any lasting effects. Hell be 35 next week.

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    1. Ok. New outfit for your son's birthday party?

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  12. Agree with your definition apart from your not qualifying 'tossers' with 'self-centred internet-educated'. (Ignorant' and 'self-righteous' may also apply.) I think you and I are much of the same age (I'll give you ten years since you're still working) but I can remember my upbringing in the UK when vaccines for these common diseases was unavailable. So, when little Johnny caught measles, mumps or chickenpox his parents threw a party so everyone that went caught the disease. We all went, we all caught the disease and spent a few days in bed and off school and our parents were grateful. It was generally believed (and may largely be true) that getting what were then called the 'childhood diseases' gave you a few days discomfort but lifelong protection. That may or may not be true but that's largely the way the human body and its defences work - hence vaccinations, where you get an injection of dead or, at least, dormant germs that allow the body to detect them and generate the appropriate antibodies should the real ones ever come along. When I was a child there were, I think, vaccinations already available for whooping cough (noted the misspelling in an earlier comment - autocorrect?), diptheria, smallpox and polio (I think - and am open to correction). I had a BCG shot early in secondary school; that was painful and resulted in a pus-filled crater in my arm and a lifelong (so far) scar. Oh! Yes, and immunisation. I never caught tuberculosis. The worrying thing, though, is that I guess many of these 'antivaxxers' are themselves protected by vaccination, thanks to their parents, but are denying their own kids the same protection. If their kids catch measles or whatever, well, they'll be okay, won't they? Which, of course, was the point of your post. Sorry, just had to put my two ha'porth in.

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    1. Chris, you comments, at times challenging, are always welcome. I heard a few years ago about these parties for children to catch diseases, but I really don't think it was an Australian thing when I was but a lad. No, I don't use auto correct. All of my mistakes are of my own doing. I would call it a typo. Fingers running too fast. Internet educated is an interesting expression. The internet is a valuable resource for all things medical, but I only ever look at Australian government, or that sort of medical site. Similar American sites are very good too.

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  13. In Belgium it was exactly the same as Chris Lawson wrote. 3 vaccines however where obligatory. Polio, TBC the last one I have forgotten, but it wasn't the measles. Today the kids are vaccinated against everything and it is obligatory.

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    1. Gattina, I am not surprised that all are obligatory in Belgium. They should be everywhere. I can't remember all the vaccines I had, now. What was the one that left the scar in your shoulder? What was the one that you had a reaction test in your wrist before the vaccine?

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  14. It really annoys me when people like anti-vaxxers (and climate change deniers) ignore the overwhelming body of evidence or claim to use 'scientific evidence' to back up their claims. Fine if it's a choice/decision that affects only them...but not when others are impacted.

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    1. Ad Rad, it is very seldom that people's weird choices affect only themselves. There is surely a duty of care to a child.

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  15. It really gets on my goat, because it's not just the kids who CAN be vaccinated and aren't that can get sick, but it's those who rely on the herd immunity for their own protection. Kids who have cancers or other illnesses that mean they cannot have vaccinations. Selfish.

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    1. Fen, indeed, and that is a good point. Forty or fifty years ago, there was no choice. Your child had to be vaccinated and it was compulsory for mothers to attend for check ups at what was called ??? with their child.

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