By Leah McLaren - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 0 Comments
How Andrew Wakefield’s bogus theory spawned a generation at risk
Earlier this month, in the small coastal city of Swansea, Wales, a 25-year-old man with measles was found dead in his flat. It was the first measles fatality in Britain in five years, and a bleak development in an epidemic caused by a health scare that began here more than a decade and a half ago.
Almost 900 people, mostly children and adolescents, have contracted the disease in recent weeks. Health officials say it’s the result of a “lost generation” of children, now roughly 10-18 years old, who did not receive their vaccinations as infants in the 1990s. Back then, there were widely publicized concerns about a link between bowel disease, the MMR vaccine—which protects children against measles, mumps and rubella—and autism. While the link was later disproved and the 1998 paper that promoted it exposed as fraudulent, many parents, particularly in the Swansea area where the local media took up the story, still failed to get their children immunized. Why this legacy of mistrust took hold in south Wales more strongly than the rest of the country is not entirely known, though most put it down to those early reports, combined with a relatively inward-looking culture. What’s certain is that consequences could be dire.
The Swansea epidemic shows no signs of ending; 121 new cases appeared in the last week. Epidemiologists expect the outbreak could last until the summer holidays and beyond. And there are serious concerns it could spread to other parts of Wales, due to low vaccination rates across that region—as well as across the entire country. It is estimated at least 40,000 children across Wales are currently not vaccinated. Continue…
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
People hate getting vaccines. Apparently even vaccinologists.
“I don’t like to get immunized,” Science-ish was surprised to hear from one of Canada’s most esteemed vaccine researchers this week. “I do, and I will continue, but I put it in the same category as going for a colonoscopy,”
With the re-emergence of diseases like measles and whooping cough, and parents increasingly seeking alternative vaccination schedules or opting out of shots all together, policymakers are scrambling to figure out what to do. In California, for example, the state legislature is now looking at a bill that would require parents who want to decline vaccines for their kids to seek counseling from a doctor.
Here in Canada, some hospitals have begun essentially forcing health-care workers to get the flu shot if they want to keep their jobs. We’ll never see that kind of measure applied to the general population, so for now: What do we know about what works when it comes to getting people to comply with vaccine guidelines?
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Opening the books, and Bloody streets.
Liberal senator and accused fraudster Raymond Lavigne claimed more than $30,000 in work-related expenses during a three-month span last year—despite the fact that he is banned from sitting in the upper chamber while his criminal trial unfolds. Sadly, his hefty tab is hardly shocking. (This is the same senator, after all, who famously sent a staffer to chop down trees at his cottage.) The good news? Finally, after years of pushback, every senator’s spending habits are now posted online. Though long overdue, such transparency is the only way to ensure the next Raymond Lavigne does his own gardening.
An injection of truth
In 1998, a British researcher published a bogus study that remains one of the biggest myths of modern medicine: that autism is somehow linked to childhood vaccines. Andrew Wakefield’s work has been repeatedly discredited, but countless parents—fearful of a side effect that doesn’t exist—still choose not to immunize their kids against measles, mumps and rubella. This week, the British Medical Journal published yet another scathing rebuke, describing the doctor’s original study as “an elaborate fraud.” Case closed.
Up in smoke
Suddenly, the air seems fresher. According to a new report released this week by Citigroup, smoking is in such rapid decline around the world that cigarettes will “virtually disappear” by 2050. The end could come even quicker in Cambridge, Mass., where city council is pondering an outdoor smoking ban in parks and other public places. And here at home, graphic new warning labels—including the photo of a dying lung cancer victim—already seem to be working. A new poll says one-third of smokers believe the packages will help them quit.
Fluoride levels in the U.S. water supply will be reduced after a new study that found kids are getting too much of the cavity-fighting mineral due, in part, to improved brushing habits. Better still is the news that British scientists have developed a way to eliminate the skin-crawling whine of a dentist’s drill—and replace it with relaxing music. Now if they could only do something about the sound of fingers on a blackboard.
Mexico’s violent drug war shows no signs of abating. In sunny Acapulco, the two-day death toll was 31, including the grisly discovery of the decapitated corpses of 15 young men. Authorities are telling tourists not to worry because the violence is “targeted.” Hardly. At least the news is better in another drug hot spot, Brazil, where police have cleared out three gang strongholds in Rio de Janeiro. The military-style operations are part of a plan to take back no-go areas of the city in advance of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Maybe somebody should award Mexico a major international event.
Memo to Environment Minister Peter Kent: don’t bother trying to promote the Alberta tar sands as “ethical oil.” We’re all doomed anyway. A new study predicts that climate change will cause a global disaster within the next 1,000 years—even if the world immediately cuts all greenhouse gas emissions. Vanishing ice floes, massive flooding and global food shortages are all inevitable, the report warns. “Even if we change behaviour and totally change society, we’re still in store for a lot of bad scenarios,” says one researcher. “I feel a bit defeatist.” A bit?
The federal government is about to slash the budget of the RCMP’s air marshal program, a post-9/11 initiative that places plainclothes Mounties on commercial flights. The undercover officers are considered the last line of defence against hijackers and terrorists, but a looming 25 per cent funding cut will mean fewer marshals in the sky come April. If the feds were really serious about airline safety, they would cut something else: the amount of coffee served in the cockpit. A United Airlines pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in Toronto this week after spilling his java all over the controls.
It’s hard to decide which was more stomach-churning: Team Canada’s epic collapse at the World Junior Hockey Championship, or a Buffalo News column that slammed visiting Canadian fans as “arrogant,” “obnoxious” and “lousy tippers.” Clearly, the writer has never ventured to the end zone seats at a Bills game.