Tuesday 21 May 2019

An outbreak of measles? What year is it?

Andrew Wakefield
Andrew Wakefield
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Did you get vaccinated against the flu? Did you know that if you did get the jab, you were more likely to contract the far more deadly Aussie flu, while those who didn't bother getting the vaccination only succumbed to the more common or garden variety?

No, it's true, some bloke told me the other day.

He also said that the authorities don't want the rest of us to know that there's a dodgy batch of vaccines out there which will mess you up if you are unlucky enough to get a bad one.

Would you listen to the bloke you never met, or would you listen to the doctors?

Incredibly, some people are still happier to listen to uninformed or simply demented views on vaccines than they are heeding the advice of the medical professions.

This week's news that there has been a measles outbreak in Limerick sounds more like a story which belongs to an era when people worried about polio and rickets, not a modern country in 2018.

Yet some people simply refuse to listen to the evidence, to advice and to common sense.

The whole anti-vax movement is based on a lie peddled by a charlatan, Andrew Wakefield (above), the former doctor who was struck off in 2010 for creating a barrage of bogus claims about the MMR vaccine.

It's hard to know if the Limerick outbreak is because the city is a hidden hotbed of die-hard Wakefield supporters, or if it's down to simple parental neglect. But why do so many people still stubbornly refuse to trust in vaccines?

Part of it is, in its own way, nearly admirable. After all, scepticism is always a handy default position to have.

But there is a quasi-religious element to the anti-vax movement, in the sense that these people remain convinced that they, and only they, know the real truth and the modern Pharisees of medicine want to keep the rest of us in the dark.

There is also the ever-shifting line between when parental rights over your child should come before the greater good.

But as much as many of us are correct in resenting any form of State interference in how we live our lives, the whole point of a vaccine is not just that it protects you, but that it protects those around you as well.

We have a herd immunity which requires the vast majority of people to be vaccinated because it prevents the spread of disease.

Getting vaccinated isn't blind supplication to the State, it's an act of civic responsibility. It is, at heart, about being a good neighbour.

But if we have learned one thing about the ongoing controversy about vaccines, it's that they have yet to invent one that can cure stupid.

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