Fifteen Years After Autism Panic, a Plague of Measles Erupts

The Wall Street Journal reports:

When the telltale rash appeared behind Aleshia Jenkins’s ears, her grandmother knew exactly what caused it: a decision she’d made 15 years earlier.

Ms. Jenkins was an infant in 1998, when this region of southwest Wales was a hotbed of resistance to a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Many here refused the vaccine for their children after a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, suggested it might cause autism and a local newspaper heavily covered the fears. Resistance continued even after the autism link was disproved.

The bill has now come due.

A measles outbreak infected 1,219 people in southwest Wales between November 2012 and early July, compared with 105 cases in all of Wales in 2011.

One of the infected was Ms. Jenkins, whose grandmother, her guardian, hadn’t vaccinated her as a young child. “I was afraid of the autism,” says the grandmother, Margaret Mugford, 63 years old. “It was in all the papers and on TV.”

The outbreak presents a cautionary tale about the limits of disease control. Wales is a modern society with access to modern medical care and scientific thought. Yet legions spurned a long-proven vaccine, putting a generation at risk even after scientists debunked Dr. Wakefield’s autism research.

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23 thoughts on “Fifteen Years After Autism Panic, a Plague of Measles Erupts”

  1. I have no issues, moral or otherwise, with the cell line used to make the Rubella vaccines — no more than with the use of the HeLa cells in the studies of cancer or any studies in cell biology.

    But since you mentioned it, I have issues (moral and all sorts) with the tetanus vaccine that Uncle Sam makes mandatory for immigrants. Calling something a vaccine does not automatically make it a good thing, so we should be careful with generalisations.

    The so-called tetanus vaccine is not even a vaccine in any real sense. It is reported to be immunogenic against tetanospasmin, but there is no good data to prove that. This fact is shoved under the carpet by the clinical trials of combined vaccines. When tetanus occurs (which it emphatically refuses to do, in modern times), it is treated with synthetic antitoxins because there is no immunity to it. I don’t know anybody who knows anybody who has seen a real case of tetanus since about WWI, with one exception that was so unique it made Washingon Times:

    http://helmandblog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/brit-medics-save-afghan-child-from.html

    And, to debunk the myth that we get infected with C. tetani through wounds, there was no “tetanus-prone wound” in that case. The little fella was dying from pneumonia when he got stricken with tetanus, which usually happens on the background of malnourishment and stress.

    C. tetani is our endosymbiont, so naturally we don’t have immunity to it or to its products. We may be hosting it for its products, including tetanospasmin. Tetanus vaccine is a quack remedy.

  2. As you can see from my post below it is an ethical issue. Should we really abort babies for scientific research? I actually feel for these people who are forced to give their kids Rubella vaccinations. I decided it was a necessary evil for my kids, but wish they would find some other way to manufacture it instead of using WI-38 human fibroblasts from an aborted female baby.

    It is also sad that Merck stopped producing the MM vaccine (MMR without the R) so these folks now have their kids at even more risk for a good moral choice.

  3. This is partially true. The Rubella in the Measles mumps and Rubella (MMR)shot is created from a fetal tissue stem cell line from an aborted female fetus – the line has been in existence since the early 60’s.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WI-38
    http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/rubella

    For those that believe abortion is wrong, and using fetuses for science is wrong it is a conundrum. There used to be a MM only vaccine but it was discontinued.

    I actually feel for the plight of these people, and am a bit upset about the R part of the shot myself. When my kids were babies, I sadly went along with the program because there weren’t alternatives.

    Even though it is well documented that Rubella vaccine comes from this strain, you will find bizarre propaganda pages claiming this is not true. Like this laughable one.
    http://www.drwile.com/lnkpages/render.asp?vac_abortion

    Anyway, not wanting to use fetal tissue for science, is not anti-science, it is a moral issue. What is worse is the press covering up the fact that stem cells come from other sources as well. Good example Bone Marrow transplants are now called stem cell transplants to confuse folks into thinking it is some new medical procedure that uses fetal stem cells.

  4. Bell, you must be new around here. “Truthers” are laughed off this board.

    The “denial” actually amounts to solid scientific evidence that the sensitivity of the atmosphere to CO2 is less than 1C/doubling (which is to be expected if the planet obeys Le Chartlier’s principle) and the easy enough to see fact that the actions taken to “address” climate change are insanely costly and almost completely ineffective.

    And as for guns, why don’t you try going skeet shooting sometime. You might like it. Again, basic science shows that increased availability of weapons to law abiding citizens reduces crime. Increased restrictions increase gun crime. This was shown both in Chicago and Britain, which both had higher rates of gun crime after they passed total gun bans than before.

    Going based on our actual scientific backgrounds, we also know that the link between autism and vaccines in completely unsupported by the evidence. Therefore, we want to string these people up by their toes. How hard is that?

  5. No, there have not been any reduction in autism rates in groups who delayed or skipped vaccines. I’ve seen several studies confirming this and none that quantitatively contradict it.

  6. How charming. The denialist/creationist/troofer/gun-loon crowd is willing to take break from the crackpottery, for a little while and hardly unanimously, to heap derision on the vaxxer crowd. Well, you can hardly expect a gang of idiots to wrong EVERY SINGLE TIME – stopped clocks and all, don’t you know – but I am happy to see that there is one bit of antiscience loonitoonery that is too much even for Milloy’s gang of flying monkeys.

    Congratulations, your mothers must be very proud.

  7. The anti-vaccine nonsense is driven by otherwise intelligent people who should know that communicable diseases used to kill millions and disfigure and debilitate millions more. But they refuse to vaccinate their kids (ironically, the anti-vaccine crowd were largely vaccinated as children) because of junk “science” and post modern angst. Just amazing!

  8. I admit Russia is a pit, and I’d be paranoid if I lived there. But I find the real Russians’ paranoia quite perverse. They know everything about Putin and yet they prefer to be scared of HAARP.

  9. Wakefiels has admitted he wrote the book with the autism claim to make money from the sale of the book. That’s part of the reson he’s no longer on the UK.

  10. Maybe those are all true in Russia.
    You’re not paranoid if someone is actually following you.

  11. Mumps, measles and chicken pox are usually benign infections — I had two out of three myself. But there are important exceptions and no one knows how to predict which person will have a very serious or even lethal illness from these preventable diseases.
    I’ll say this much: if autism had really had a link to vaccination, the risks of these diseases would be small next to the devastation that autism often brings to a child and a family. But the link has been disproven and Dr. Wakefield has been accused (I don’t know outcome) of misconduct by a medical research body.

  12. Where I grew up in Canada, ALL the kids got chicken pox amd measles – it was a part of growing up. Some parents would tell their kids to go play with Joey because he HAD measles, or chicken pox, to GET It, to get it as a KID. NO ONE EVER DIED OR GOT VERY SICK – MOST OF US THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD EXCUSE TO MISS SOME SCHOOL.!

  13. The article says; “Dr. Wakefield filed a lawsuit in Travis County, TX, District Court, January 3rd against the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the editor, Fiona Godlee, and writer, Brian Deer for defamation, in part, over a series of articles and editorials in the BMJ in January 2011 that accused Wakefield of committing scientific fraud.”

    Do I understand it correctly; he’s suing people in England from…Texas. Is that normal? My first thought was; why isn’t he suing them in England?

    Does that seem strange to anyone besides me?

  14. I would not be so quick to beat up on Dr Wakefield, as it has been proven recently that these “designer vaccines” for measles and especially chicken pox, need boosters every 3 years or so for life! Plus, when older generations were growing up, we were taken to play with kids who had these childhood diseases, so we could get them and build up natural immunity. Another tidbit, whooping cough outbreaks in the US have been prevalent among those who have had the vaccine.
    Nope, miracle science this is not. Natural ways are usually best.

  15. Any change in the rates of autism among those not vaccinated? If they are going to do the experiment, we may as well check the results. I suspect that those who chose not to have their kids vaccinated are fairly immune to facts. Even so, it wouldn’t hurt to look at the results with respect to autism as well as the rates of measles and any other not-vaccinated diseases.

  16. A couple years ago, in Tucson, Arizons there was an outbreak of measles–about twenty ot thirty children infected. It was brought by a Swiss visitor, unvaccinated. Just this week, in Arizona too, two children in a summer camp diagnosed with whooping cough. Amazing in this modern day, so many people so frightened by a lie.
    Former Dr. Wakefield, after losing his medical license, is now working in Texas. Who knows what he’s doing.

  17. In the biblebelt, parents and non-parents have already been granted afterlife. They don’t even need to have any kids.

  18. Also outbreak in the biblebelt for relgious reasons vaccination refuseniks in the Netherlands.Sorry for the kids, not for the parents.

  19. Heh. I wonder if Bloomberg would find that flattering.

    I just realised that the fun continues (it’s hard to remain aware of how old we are without checking the facts). I’ve just had a vacation in Russia, where I met my sister, with whom I share the do-as-you’re-told-and-be-afraid-of-nothing grandmother. My sister is now a grandmother herself, and she is afraid of:

    1. Radio waves (asked me whether metal blinds on her windows would block the “transmissions”)
    2. Aircraft contrails (she does not go outside when any are visible)
    3. Big Brother surveillance (removes the battery from her cell phone and wraps its SIM card in aluminium foil when not talking)
    4. Bar codes (scratches or tears out the bar code part on any product she buys and destroys it. Says the bible mentions something untoward about bar codes).
    5. Vaccination (vaccines are used to plant microchips in people to track and control them)
    7. Weather (when she sees a Bénard-like pattern in the clouds, she declares it a man-made omen)
    6. A couple dozen other scares du jour that were beyond my comprehension.

    I am too ashamed to name my sister’s pre-grandmaternal occupation. What is it about becoming a grandmother that suddenly turns one into a health risk?

  20. For my grandmother, everything written in papers or said on the radio was either a law or an order not to be disobeyed.

    My other grandmother did not read papers or listen to the radio. She received all her wisdom from old books and from a small cohort of like-minded friends. She was afraid of lightning, of open windows causing draft, electric light causing blindness, and a whole lot of other things of similar nature. She used a coal-fired pressing iron and kept the few electrical loads that she had in the house permanently unplugged. Chickens had to be thoroughly drained of blood before cooking and flies in the kitchen were not to be swatted because they were god’s creatures, too.

    Grandmothers are generally not competent guardians. They bake great stuff, though

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