Vaccination

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Doctors leaders have rejected the idea of compulsory immunisation for children in the UK, according to a new report. The British Medical Association has published a report on childhood immunisation on the eve of its annual conference. It calls on doctors and health workers to stress to parents that vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect children from infectious disease. They should therefore be encouraged to choose immunisation for their children. However the BMA said it did not support the idea of compulsory vaccinations. BMA Chairman Dr Ian Bogle said: "We have looked carefully at the issue of compulsory vaccination and it is true that some countries do operate immunisation programmes where there is some degree of compulsion. "However the BMA does not think this would be right for the United Kingdom. "The doctor-patient relationship is based on trust, choice and openness and we think introducing compulsory vaccination may be harmful to this." The report also looked at the issue of whether parents should have a choice of vaccine, for example single doses instead of the triple MMR jab. Parents first became worried about MMR after a paper in 1999 speculated about a possible link between the jab and autism and bowel disease. The report pointed out that the paper did not prove any link and only one of the 13 authors suggested that MMR should be given as separate injections one year apart http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-186604/Doctors-say-compulsory-vaccines.html In the US children must have proof of vaccination before entering the public school system, although it is becoming easier in many states for parents to gain exemptions from this requirement. In the UK there is no such requirement. This distinction has allowed for a comparison of the impact of scaremongering about the safety of vaccines and the effectiveness of campaigns to improve vaccination rates. In the UK the scare that the MMR vaccine may be connected to autism (it isn’t) triggered by the bogus study by Andrew Wakefield resulted in a precipitous drop in vaccination rates down to about 78% overall. This is far below what is necessary for herd immunity, when immunity is prevalent enough to prevent a disease from spreading around a population. And the 78% figure is an average – but there are pockets where the number is even lower. This resulted in a surge of measles – from a low of less than 100 cases per year to 1,348 cases in 2008. The surge contniues despite an aggressive campaign to inform the public about the safety of the MMR vaccine. By contrast the US has seen continued high overall vaccination rates of about 90%. The MMR and other vaccine scare came to the US a bit later than the UK but it is in full swing here, without much effect on overall vaccination rates. However, we are beginning to see the emergence of low vaccination rates in specific communities, with subsequent outbreaks of measles (131 cases in 2008), mumps, and whooping cough. It remains to be seen if vaccination rates will suffer as much in the US as they have in the UK. So far it seems that the requirement for vaccination to attend public school has dampened the effects of unwarranted scares over vaccine safety. Further, it is in communities where those laws have been weakened, or there is an anti-vaccine culture that teaches parents how to circumvent the requirements, that we have been seeing a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases among the unvaccinated. It is for this reason that theUK is now contemplating making vaccination compulsory. Sir Sandy Macara, a UK health expert, is quoted by the BBC as saying: “Our attempts to persuade people have failed. The suggestion is that we ought to consider making a link which in effect would make it compulsory for children to be immunised if they are to receive the benefit of a free education from the state.” The BBC also reports:

The BBC has learned, however, through a freedom of information request that the...
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