Friday, 20 August 2010

The infectious-disease-promotion-movement

Numerous blogs, this one included, have written about the pernicious effect Andrew Wakefield has had on vaccination levels in children. He singlehandedly was able to get nearly irradicated diseases reintroduced by claiming this highly effective method of preventing disease causes autism. This summer the infectious disease promotion movement suffered a setback when British General Medical Council (GMC) ruled against him. Since his adherents suffer from both a delusional disorder and the Dunning-Kruger effect, they may want to read about statistics in medicine, his downfall has not been the boost for vaccination rates less intellectually challenged people had hoped for. The legacy of his misbehaviour is a decreased herd immunity which still kills. Joseph Albietz remembers the death of a child:
He was unvaccinated, but that was because of his age.  He was part of the population that is fully dependent on herd immunity for protection, and that is exquisitely prone to a life-threatening course once infected.  
The failure of maintaining herd immunity makes him observe that:
the medical community in general is delusional if we think we can resolve the public health threat posed by the undercurrent of distrust in the vaccination program on our own.  No number of studies, consensus statements, or ad campaigns by the CDC, WHO, AAP, AAFP, etc (not to mention countless blog posts) will be sufficient to maintain the public trust in the vaccination program.  We need public support as well.

The Force remains strong in the anti-science camp. Luckily Penn & Teller offered us another solution by spending an episode of Bullshit on the subject. Orac reviewed it for us, and has the video. Yet another approach is suggested by Joseph Albietz:
In Atlanta, Georgia this September is a rather sizable (~40,000 people) convention called Dragon Con.  Our skeptic friends at and the newly formed “Women Thinking Free Foundation” are launching their their “Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated” education campaign at Dragon*Con, and have organized a local pertussis vaccination clinic during the event.  In coordination with the local health officials, they are providing free TDaP vaccinations for any Dragon*Con participant, as well as information and educational materials.
But as long as airhead celebreties keep falling for the denialism-virus ....... Sigh.

Update: Another explanation for the importance of herd immunity is given by ERV.

Update II: The importance of herd immunity is surprisingly lost on the anti-vaccination crowd. The Watchdog Institute reports:
that waivers signed by parents who choose to exempt their children from immunizations for kindergarten enrollment have nearly quadrupled since 1990. California allows parents to opt out of some or all shots on the basis of personal beliefs, be it religious objections or distrust of the medical establishment.
This causes Orac to observe:
Failure to vaccinate also endangers the unvaccinated children as well. Last year, in fact, this risk was quantified in a study that found that unvaccinated children have a 23-fold elevated risk of catching pertussis compared with vaccinated children.
That is, if you accept what physicians say about herd immunity. We all know they don't know as much about diseases as the average celebrity.

Update III: What happens if others get infected because you object, for whatever reason, to vaccinations, i.e. you support the spread of infectious disease. The possible legal liability is discussed by attorney Jann Bellamy. The short version:
Those who breach their duty to avoid the spread of communicable disease may be liable to those injured for damages.
Update IV: If you still think the infection-promotion-movement is a harmless bunch of "sceptics" try reading about the harassment Amy Wallace was subjected to after writing an article called "An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All." Her experience with this witchhunt she explains here:
Autism’s False Prophets, Dr. Offit’s 2008 book, opened my eyes to the risks of reporting on vaccines. Before I began working on my Wired story I read it, focusing at first on his straightforward description of what being a vaccine advocate had cost him. He’d been vilified on the Internet as a profiteer, a prostitute who serviced Big Pharma, and worse. He’d been physically accosted. His life had been threatened. Once, an anonymous caller had even implied they might go after Offit’s two children.
What I experienced in the wake of my Wired story was similar in tone (although my child was spared). Like Offit, the vast majority of the feedback I received was positive, but the negative stuff would make your hair stand on end.
Despite all this she does not regret a thing:
My Wired piece was a chance to contribute in a meaningful way to a discussion that must be had.
She ends the article with some suggestions for those interested in promoting rational debate. Another article, by Shot of Prevention, also mention the Watchdog Instute's investigation and the effect of not vaccinating on herd immunity:
Perhaps more concerned parents should demand to know how many of their children’s classmates are coming to school unvaccinated.  As Dr. Mark Sawyer, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego noted, “Un-immunized people in general contribute to any disease rates. As the rates of un-immunized kids go up, we are inevitably going to see more and more outbreaks of diseases.”  It is clear that a failure to vaccinate children attending school endangers us all.
Then there is the CDC which estimated the number of deaths due to influenza. I wish there was a way to prevent those infections.

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