by Marizze Chan
Unvaccinated children at risk of measles outbreak in the UK.
Over the past decade or so, a debate over the worth of childhood vaccinations has thrived: Possibly thanks in part to documentaries like "The Greater Good"; which relied upon opinions of both medical professionals and community members about topics like the current vaccine schedule for kids, and whether it should be updated, or disregarded altogether.
Recently, vaccine usage has shifted from a mere debate to a public health risk, especially among residents of the United Kingdom.
In Swansea, the second largest city in Wales, over 700 people have contracted measles. And an article in the Guardian newspaper said that current figure climbed more than 10% in just a week, despite a campaign where over 3,000 children were given booster shots to lessen their risk of also becoming affected.
Call of the Day
Health officials urge quick action and adherence to the vaccine schedule.
Public health professionals in Wales assert that although best efforts are being made to give unvaccinated children adequate access to receiving booster shots, it’s up to parents to take the initiative. For example, about 5,000 young people in the United Kingdom have been identified as at risk for contracting measles, but a child cannot be vaccinated without also having a consent form signed by a parent.
Furthermore, officials say that the situation becomes even more complex because, although a large percentage of young people in Wales did receive their initial measles vaccination, many opted not to receive the subsequent shots that provide adequate protection as a person grows older.
Encouragingly, data showed that among Welsh children last year, over 94% of them received the first recommended measles vaccination, while nearly 90% received the second one. Although officials are hopeful about that news, they caution that it’s important for parents to stay motivated about giving their children vaccinations as scheduled throughout childhood, instead of just in infancy.
Tweens and Teens at Risk
During this outbreak, situation is particularly dire for ten to eighteen years old; says an update from the Guardian
That’s because they were born during a time when a man named Andrew Wakefield was largely credited with starting the sense of doubt that some people have about if vaccines are really necessary.
Wakefield believed that vaccines were connected with a rise in autism. Although that link has not been proven, some worried parents became persuaded to either not vaccinate their children at all, or not have them receive further doses in the future if they were already a few years old when Wakefield went public with his belief.
Is “Herd Immunity” a Myth?
Back when immunizations began being administered on a widespread basis, there was a common perception that as long as at least 95% of a population group were vaccinated against a particular disease, it would become extremely difficult for that disease to spread, simply because there were so few people left to infect.
Unfortunately, although health officials stop short of saying that herd immunity is entirely untrue, many caution that even as vaccination rates go up, so do confirmed cases of the diseases being vaccinated against; therefore herd immunity may not be something to rely upon.
If the issues in the UK suggest anything, it’s that failure to engage in preventive measures can quickly affect entire communities, and that it’s ideal to follow recommendations for vaccines from a child’s birth, instead of rushing to catch up later.
Blogger and freelance writer Tracy Rentz writes for health blogs.
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