Measles map exposes global fallout of an autism scare campaign

Measles map exposes global fallout of an autism scare campaign

THE legacy of the discredited research by MMR scare doctor Andrew Wakefield has been exposed by a map showing spikes in cases of preventable childhood diseases in areas across the globe where anti-vaccine campaigners are active.

Laurie Garrett, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, who assembled the data for the interactive map, said there was growing evidence that “Wakefieldism” had become a worldwide phenomenon.

“Our data suggests that where Wakefield’s message has caught on, measles follows,” she said.

Many academics across Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US believe Mr Wakefield’s widely dismissed claims – that the combined triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) increases the risk of autism – contributed to some outbreaks of preventable disease.

Mr Wakefield created a storm in 1988 when The Lancet medical journal published his research. Thousands of parents boycotted the MMR jab before Britain’s Sunday Times uncovered undisclosed financial conflicts of interest in the research. Mr Wakefield’s results could not be replicated.

The doctor was struck off by the General Medical Council in 2010 and The Lancet retracted the article. While Mr Wakefield does not oppose vaccination he continues to argue that the MMR jab is unsafe, despite the favoured current theory that autism is genetic. Anti-vaccine campaigners have used his research to argue that all vaccines are dangerous. The map reveals measles outbreaks across swaths of Africa where vaccination rates are historically low and in war-torn countries. But other spikes in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US may, experts say, owe their existence in part to Mr Wakefield and those who espouse his views.

In Australia, where authorities have urged people to ignore online anti-vaccine messages, the map reveals 30 clusters of measles. In New Zealand, where anti-vaccine campaigns have driven MMR rates as low as 60 per cent in some areas, there have been several waves of the disease.

In Swansea, Wales, 1200 people caught measles in 2012-13. Many were of the right age to receive inoculation when the local newspaper, convinced by Mr Wakefield, campaigned against MMR. “This is a legacy of the Wakefield scare,” said David Elliman at the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health.

Source: The Australian

Comment: This article is included to show the ongoing debate and arguments about vaccination. There is much here that remains open to debate.

It is interesting that one question that is not raised and answered is why there needs to be a combination of MMR in the first place? It is becoming increasingly appreciated that drug combinations raise problems in an almost exponential manner, for example.

Also, the question of autism being genetic is open to question, and most likely multifactorial in origin.