Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The needle and the damage done

The retraction of the Wakefield article has provoked a number of editorial and Op-Ed pieces. I spotted this one in the LA Times a few days ago - The damage of the anti-vaccination movement.

Some groups claim only to oppose mandatory vaccines, but this ignores the need for what's called "herd immunity." That means a certain level of the population must be vaccinated (generally around 85% to 90%) so those unvaccinated are still protected.

Lack of herd immunity is what killed Gabriella "Brie" Romaguera. The New Orleans baby died of pertussis, or whooping cough. At one time, this disease afflicted more than 250,000 American children yearly, killing 9,000. Vaccinations reduced that to just 1,000 new cases annually by 1976; but by 2008, cases had soared to more than 10,000 annually.

Brie contracted the disease when she was a month old, too young for her first pertussis vaccine. "I'm not laying blame," her mother, Danielle, told me. "But people need to know they can infect other people's babies. It kills. People think these diseases don't exist anymore, but that's only because children are being vaccinated."

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