The false prophet of vaccinations

2017-04-19 14:21

Picture: neurobonkers

Branded Shoulders

Anyone that went to a public primary school, in the village or township, during the early nighties (or before?) will remember those dreadful days. So young, so innocent, yet someone would betray you! You would be told to stand in a queue but won't understand why kids at the front are running away or why others come back crying. I still remember one girl bleeding profusely (so I thought back then) from her shoulder. Honestly, that was a lot of blood for a kid. I wonder what was going through her mind after that vaccination needle pierced her skin and left her shoulder bloody. The vaccination campaigns would always leave scars. Literally too. I still have some UFO shaped dots on my shoulder. Maybe it is a bar-code for the little green men to identify us with. Jokes aside, we need to talk about vaccines.


The AVW or African Vaccination Week is an initiative led, coordinated and supported by the World Health Organisation to strengthen immunization programmes across the African continent. Since April 2011, vaccination campaigns and health promotion activities are strengthened annually on selected days. This year, the week of the 24th to 30th April is selected to celebrate AVW and raise vaccination awareness. Themed “Vaccines protect everyone, get vaccinated!”, the #AVW17 hopes to capture everyone's attention and promote healthy communities through vaccination. That only applies if you are a believer in injections and vaccines preventing illnesses. Thanks to Dr Andrew Wakefield and his 12 disciples; I meant to say co-workers, there are people who are against vaccines.

The Prophesy

In 1998, Wakefield and colleagues confirmed the doubts and beliefs of vaccine skeptics and infidels. They managed to convince lay people and health professionals alike that the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) is linked to behavioural regression and pervasive developmental disorder in children. The Wakefield prophesy convinced parents that if they allowed their children to get the MMR vaccine, they would get autism. You can't blame these guys for making claims. Unfortunately, 10 of the Wakefield disciples came out to expose the prophesy as falsified and statistically insignificant to link MMR vaccine and autism. This is unfortunate because parents couldn't possibly believe that this long-awaited science was a lie.

My guess is they (the parents) did not follow the studies that rejected these claims closely. In 1999, Taylor B et al published in the very same Lancet journal, used by Wakefield and disciples, to prove that there was no epidemiologic evidence showing a casual association between MMR vaccine and autism. The Journal of the American Medical Association released another review by Dales L and team in 2001 analyzing MMR immunisation coverage rate of children between 1980 and 1994 retrospectively. Their conclusion with survey samples of 600-1900 children each year (1980-1994) was: "These data do not suggest an association between MMR immunization among young children and an increase in autism occurrence."

Picture: whale

Here is the full Wakefield story. Wakefield was being funded by lawyers of parents engaged in lawsuits against vaccine-producing companies. Now that is a classical conflict of interest. It also seems that Wakefield and team did not disclose this small funding detail to Lancet journal before publication. In February 2010, the Lancet eventually removed the Wakefield paper after back and forth investigations. The Wakefield movement was charged with ethical violations and scientific misinterpretation by the Lancet. The British Medical Journal also came out to indicate that this act was deliberate fraud and the prophesy might have been linked to financial gain. Things we do for money! There was also a claim of shady investigative journalism. This clouded the scientific investigation that should have been followed prior to medical publication by Wakefield and cronies.

Picture: pintrest

Vaccine Myths

The Wakefield saga has dented this valuable scientific advance that has almost eradicated polio and other illnesses in our very own country. Besides the Wakefield gospel believers, other people still hold the following false beliefs about vaccines: (reference:

The baby's immune system can't handle vaccines

Natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity

Vaccines contain unsafe toxins

Better hygiene and sanitation are actually responsible for decreased infections, not vaccines

Vaccines aren't worth the risk Vaccines can infect my child with the disease it's trying to prevent We don't need vaccines because the infection rates of some of these illnesses are low

Picture: healthunits

The Gospel Truth

The currently available vaccines offer protection against:

Haemophilus Influenzae type b causes severe meningitis and pneumonia in the non-vaccinated group.

Hepatitis B still remains a bigger threat to healthcare workers, IVI drug abusers or HIV positive patients.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is often sexually transmitted and causes warts and reproductive organs cancers.

Measles can lead to blindness, encephalitis or death if contracted.

Mumps is known to cause swelling on the side of the face but has other complications like orchitis, oophoritis, encephalitis, meningitis and deafness if contracted.

Pneumococcal diseases are known to paediatric wards as they commonly cause otitis media, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, meningitis or septicaemia.

Polio is known to cause irreversible paralysis and has been eradicated in almost all countries except Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Rotavirus is a commonly known culprit for severe diarrhoeal diseases globally.

Rubella infections in pregnancy are notorious for causing foetal death or congenital rubella syndrome affecting the brain, heart, eyes and ears.

Tetanus cases in newborns are now reduced thanks to reduced unsafe, untidy and unexpected home deliveries  usually followed by unhygienic handling of umbilical cords or application of traditional medicines.

Chicken Pox (Varicella Zoster) in adults or immuno-compromised people can be very severe leading to respiratory problems or encephalitis.

Other available vaccines in public health centres offered as part of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in South Africa (EPI-SA) are against disseminated TB in children (BCG), diphtheria and pertussis. Diphtheria had its time and caused a lot of deaths amongst children in the 20's in the US. Whooping cough aka pertussis may still be seen in clinical practice presenting with uncontrollable, violent coughing and can be deadly for babies under a year old.

Picture: NICD NHLS

AVW Interventions

In addition to vaccination, there are other interventions known to prevent illnesses, reduce disabilities and death. These interventions also improve general health and promote overall community health behaviours. These are:

  • Vitamin A supplements to boost immunity and prevent blindness
  • De-worming tablets to treat parasitic infections and the iron-deficiency anaemia they can cause
  • Distribution and/or re-treatment of long-lasting insecticide treated nets to prevent malaria
  • Growth monitoring and screening children for nutritional status to identify severe malnutrition and referring them to a health worker
  • Distribution of WASH kits, oral rehydration salts and zinc tablets for the prevention & treatment of diarrhoea
  • Iron and folic acid supplementation to prevent/treat anaemia
  • Women of child-bearing age can receive tetanus toxoid vaccination, family planning counselling, screening for cervical and breast cancer, etc.
  • Interventions to raise awareness and create demand for child health services by communities, advocacy and communication, leaders’ statements and speeches, radio, television, print media and distribution of health education messages etc.

  • Picture: whale

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