Doctor Crippen has a post up about measles. Like him, I too had all of the childhood diseases—my parents deliberately exposed me to the infected—although the one that I remember, partly because my parents were so keen for me to get it as a child*, was chickenpox. I would, in any case, endorse his urgings to get your children immunised.
However, though I lay some claim to significant knowledge of microbiology, I am not a doctor (or even a nurse quacktitioner); thus, inevitably, it is the political points that Crippen raises that interest me, for they are—purely in passing, you understand—contradictory.
Remember BSE? Remember all the dishonesty, the platitudes, and the patronising, dissembling lies from the government? Remember the appalling John Selwyn Gummer, as reported by the BBC, inserting tainted meat into his daughter?
Readers over the last few days will be aware that I went off on one about BSE the other day. Indeed, I do remember BSE; I remember how thousands were going to die within ten years, how we were all doomed.
It did not happen. 161 people in Britain have contracted what is amusingly called vCJD (amusing because it killed "younger people" than CJD. Including a man of 46. Not so very young, methinks). The point is that there was massive hysteria over CJD, the British beef industry was all but destroyed and for what? Despite the recent scare stories, I do not believe that CJD is a threat, significant or otherwise. Apart from anything else, scientists do not know what the infection vector is. They do not really know whether "prions" are symptomatic or causative (or possibly both). They have also never explained why, if BSE could transfer to humans, why scrapie (the sheep equivalent) could not.
However, what the good doctor is trying to say, I think, is that the cover-ups and vacillations by the politicians (possibly) led to the deaths of 161 British people. The government did nothing until the last minute. With the BSE crisis, there were concerns, however misplaced, over the safety of British beef: the government (eventually) acted on those concerns but was excoriated, rightly, for not doing so before.
Contrast this with the measles epidemic. Now, there were concerns over the MMR jab; if you are a regular Private Eye, you may well still have concerns over the jab. When there is a concern over the safety of such a medicine, then it should be withdrawn. Dr Crippen maintains that the government should have put money into its own research report: this would have been sensible. However, as the good doctor must surely realise, a report such as this cannot be knocked up overnight. To counter effectively the Wakefield report (and a larger study with a similar conclusion to Wakefield's in the US), the research would have to studied people over the course of a number of years.
Many people were unwilling to put their children at risk of what they perceived to be the greater danger; that of their child possibly developing autism through having the jabs, hence the shortfall. There was an alternative: single jabs.
The government failed to approve these, and actually threatened to prosecute doctors who gave them. This was a stupid move and an unfogiveable failing, leading to a significant drop in the number of people immunising their children. When I pointed this out to Dr Crippen in his comments, one of his commenters replied thusly.
single jabs were never a sensible option. it would have re-inforced the idea that one of the vaccines was dangerous and should be avoided. The whole vaccs programme would have gone belly-up as everyone had a pick'n'mix of vaccs. 6 jabs instead of 2, most of the population would end up short of one or more vaccs.
The point is that the vaccine may indeed have been dangerous. No one was to know at the time that Wakefield had it wrong. The fact is that many of the chidren with autism that he studied had signs of the attenuated measles virus in their guts; he postulated a connection. I repeat: some fairly credible research showed that the MMR jab may have been dangerous.
In which case, surely the sensible thing would have been to withdraw it—until it was proven safe‐and make the alternative available? As it is, people didn't bother vaccinating at all, which is surely a worse scenario; at least Dr Crippen seems to think so, and I would tend to agree.
The government arsed the whole thing up by doing nothing, or actively threatening those who wished to provide the alternative. Some doctors risked prosecution in order to ensure that children had at least some form of protection against the disease. So, now, as Dr Crippen points out, we have a meases epidemic starting in Doncaster.
Another criminally stupid, life-wasting load of inaction from our lords and masters; their record on disease is not good. Coupled with the appalling slaughter of livestock during the Foot and Mouth Crisis**, this is just another fucking cock-up from NuLabour.
Why won't these people just fuck off and die...?
UPDATE: Given bookdrunk's comment below, perhaps I should clarify. Let's assume that the government knew that MMR was safe; this did not affect the fact that some people decided against using that form of innoculation on their children. Given this emtirely predictable response why, then, did the government specifically ban the single jabs? Surely some protection is better than none?
UPDATE: A warm welcome to readers of House Of Dumb, who also sums up my point quite neatly...
* Chickenpox is caused by the Human Herpes Virus Type 3. Chickenpox is particularly dangerous for adults, since it can far more frequently lead to shingles, which is a reappearance of the chickenpox virus.
Like other forms of herpes, notably genital herpes and oral herpes ("cold sores"), the chickenpox virus can never be completely eliminated from the body. This is because the herpes virus "hides" in the central nervous system, although the immune system is usually able to suppress any reoccurance.
Part of the reason that viruses are able to hide in the CNS is that, when the central nervous system has stopped growing, the entire system is flooded with enzymes that inhibit, or rather almost totally shut down, any growth within or around the system. This is a significant reason why people with broken backs and necks are not able to recover to any significant degree: because the CNS tissues are prevented from regrowing by the enzymes present in the spinal fluid.
** My uncle is a Foot and Mouth Disease specialist at Britain's main animal disease research centre, the Purbright Centre. They should have been consulted over FMD which was foolish anyway, since my uncle had written a paper for Purbright, in the early 90s, predicting that the so-called "Asian strain" FMD would hit Britain within the next 10 years.
The government refused to consult Purbright, instead hiring an expert in human disease epidemiolgy which led directly to the mass slaughter of millions of animals which were illegal, both in the fact that animals that had not come into contact with the disease were slaughtered and, in many cases, the way in which the killings were carried out. The government realised this and slipped a retrospective law allowing the cull through the last parliament.
The lying, cheating scum.