Something The Anti-Vaxxers Should Know

Something new to consider if you believe not vaccinating you children is the best thing to do: Measles makes you vulnerable to other deadly diseases.

Apparently the disease has two side effects:

First, it leaves the immune system in a weakened state for some weeks after the disease runs its course, assuming it doesn't kill the infected child.

Second, it gives the immune system “amnesia”, meaning that immunities to other diseases a child may have had are gone. In effect, it resets the immune system so it doesn't have any experience with other diseases. Any other vaccinations or immunities built up from exposure to diseases have, in effect, never happened.

Some 650 children a year used to die from measles in the US. When mass vaccination came in after 1960, measles deaths plummeted. But oddly, so did childhood deaths from infectious disease generally, in every country where the measles vaccine was introduced. This has been a major mystery in public health: the vaccine was supposed to protect you from measles, and nothing else.

[Michael] Mina [of Emory University in Atlanta, George] and his colleagues used a complex statistical model to analyze child mortality records from the US, UK and Denmark in the decades before and after measles vaccination began. They found that infectious disease deaths did rise and fall depending on measles cases. In all three places, the timing of this surge exactly matched what would be expected if immune amnesia after measles lasted on average 27 months. The biggest killer was pneumonia, followed by diarrheal diseases and meningitis. (Note: I changed the spelling of some words from British to American spelling. - dce)

This means that it leaves someone vulnerable to diseases to which they were previously immune. It also means that one would have to go through the whole host of immunizations again in order to be protected. But this is assuming, of course, that their parents believe in vaccinations to begin with.

Many parents who reject vaccination do so because they believe having measles is healthier than being vaccinated against it. They might, however, reconsider if there's clear evidence that measles leaves a child vulnerable to pneumonia, meningitis or diphtheria.

Or not. "People who reject vaccines don't think in terms of evidence, so knowing this might not change their minds," says Paul Offit of the University of Pennsylvania, who fights vaccine denial. But then, he says, "people are compelled by fear more than reason"

Ah, yes. The “feelings, not facts” logic that has caused more bad decisions, bad policies, and more harm than just about anything other than war.