Last year, the United Kingdom had a record breaking 2,000 cases of measles. The U.K. has already reported more than 1,200 cases in 2013 thus far. The country now ranks second in Europe for the highest occurrence of this contagious disease, falling only behind Romania. This is a dangerous, life-threatening sickness that can easily be eliminated with proper preventative care. Researchers believe these numbers can be attributed to a decrease in the number of parents choosing to vaccine their children, representing a great medical setback.
Doctors believe unfounded fear of vaccines, spurred by Andrew Wakefield’s un-scientific 1998 publication, to be the cause of this measles outbreak in the United Kingdom. Wakefield’s highly flawed findings suggested a causal relationship between the childhood vaccine “MMR” and autism. The MMR vaccine is an immunization vaccine responsible for protection against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. Parents of over one million children in Britain refused to vaccinate their child with the MMR vaccine in fear of increasing their child’s risk for autism.
Since that time, it is imperative to note that Wakefield’s findings have been rejected by numerous major medical groups and the paper was eventually retracted. The MMR vaccine — distributed to hundreds of millions of people globally — has a proven record of safety. The General Medican Council applied it’s most severe sanction to the case and banned Wakefield from continuing to practice medicine. Despite substantial objections to this outdated research, his work leaves behind a legacy of the “Wakefield scare.” And still, over a decade later, many parents remain fearful of the MMR vaccine’s potential effects.
Concerned health officials are trying to stop this epidemic by opening emergency vaccination clinics throughout Britain. The majority of diagnosed individuals are older children and teens who were never vaccinated. Officials hope to reach 1 million children aged 10 to 16 with these emergency clinics.
The first measles vaccine –introduced in the 1960′s — has drastically reduced the number of measles cases in children. By 2001, measles deaths dropped by 70 percent worldwide. However, the disease remains one of the leading causes of death in children under age 5, killing more than 150,000 people every year. This contagious disease is most common in developing countries. It is spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact with infected people. Symptoms include fever, cough, and a rash on the face.
Britain’s Department of Health strongly advises parents to immunize their children. However, unlike many states in the United States, children in the U.K. are not required to receive proper vaccinations before beginning school. The measles vaccination rate in the U.S. remains above 90 percent, with only 55 reported cases last year.
The “Wakefield scare” may continue to have a detrimental effect on the health of children and teens in the U.K. until MMR rumors are abandoned. Fortunately, a trend away from the rumors seems to be occurring as currently 90 percent of children under 5 in the U.K. have received the necessary vaccines. However, vaccination is below 50 percent for children aged 10 to 16 in some regions. Hopefully the emergency vaccination clinics can address this gap and British health officials will continue to encourage the dismissal of any remaining MMR rumors.
So how can you help? Do your part to ensure your child’s health safety and stay informed on the latest research regarding important vaccinations! Share this post on your social media by using the buttons on the top and bottom of this page. And, of course, consult with your child’s physicians to learn of all the associated with the MMRE vaccine.
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Associated Press. “Measles Surge in Britain Years after Vaccine/autism Scare.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 20 May 2013. Web.
Godlee F ,Smith J ,Marcovitch H. Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent. BMJ 2011;342:c7452