Tuesday, 18 August 2009

where can get A rough guide to childhood diseases?

this handly little booket was given out at the Measles roadshownand can now be found in the paper recycling bins of various major towns (hotspots) and proping up wonky tables.
Written by an Autralian mother in classic australian english here are soem extracts.
(none of the opinions in this book are those of the department of health.)

A rough guide to childhood diseases

?There are some heated debates about vaccinations. At the extremes are the doctors who say it isn't worth discussing the fact that a relatively tiny number of kids are damaged by vaccines because it's far fewer than those who have died from the diseases if there had been no vaccinations; and at the other end there are some nutty anti-vaccinators who say extremely dodgy stuff, often on their websites, including this: "Children who were breastfed and are well looked after have an immune system which will protect them against all diseases." (This, frankly, is a big fat fib.)

Parents don't always look at the big picture and I think doctors need to understand this. We are usually more worried about what effect a vaccine might have on our individual tiny person than thrilled to participate in a disease-eradication public health programme. When doctors say there's only a one-in-a-million chance of a serious vaccination reaction such as a seizure, they should remember we're all worried that our baby might be that one in a million.


?Parents with legitimate questions can be treated like rabid twits by both sides. On the one hand "information" given to them in anti-vaccination books and on websites is most often a shocking mix of lies, twisted statistics and accusations totally irrelevant to UK vaccines. On the other hand a few worried parents say they have been bullied by doctors instead of being given information respectfully.

Most people have already made up their mind about what they think of vaccines by the time they have children. Some get whatever's on the schedule, no questions asked. A few vehemently oppose vaccinations and won't be swayed by any facts presented. The following is really for people who want more info before closing their eyes, crossing their fingers and jumping (a time honoured, metaphorical pertinent decision-making technique).

Despite the claims of many anti-vaccine lobbyists, the dedicated medical staff who immunise children are, hey, probably not part of some bizarre, worldwide, shifty-eyed conspiracy to make money for drug companies, and probably not brainwashed, robotic devotees of weird science. And it seems equally evident that sadly a very, very, small number of individual children among millions may be harmed by a vaccine. In a perfect world each child's reactions would be perfectly predictable, each child with a medical predisposition would have obvious symptoms, and each vaccine dose would be tailored to the levels of immunity in each child without needing blood to be taken with yet another injection. Ultimately parents will have to weigh up the tiny statistical risk for their child against the protection from dangerous diseases.


Some anti-vaccination activists have said that mercury in childhood vaccines was causing health problems. As there is no mercury (thimerosal) used in any of the UK injections on the routine schedule for kids there is no point in arguing the issue here, although the idea has been discredited. Despite the claims of most anti-vaccination books and websites, you can be assured that all routine childhood vaccines are free of mercury. If you are worried, ask your doctor to get out the list of ingredients from the packet and take you through them.

There is a tiny amount of gelatin in one brand of MMR vaccine. But, the Muslim Council of Britain advises muslims they are duty bound to use life-saving preventative measures and the World Health Organisation (WHO) website carries a statement endorsed by many Islamic medical scholars saying that the transformed gelatin can be considered pure and permissible to consume.

Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

For a while there was a lot of publicity about whether the MMR vaccine caused autism. Now we know it doesn't.

It was a disagreement between all of the medical doctors in the world except for a tiny, tiny handful, versus some parents of sick children who suspected some damage was caused by the MMR vaccine. Some parents were concerned about giving three vaccines in one jab, preferring three injections spaced over time. This is because they believed that the immune system is too challenged by a multiple vaccine: another theory that doctors say has no supporting evidence and is disproven by the vast number of successful triple jabs.

In the late 1990's a UK digestion doctor called Andrew Wakefield worried parents by saying the MMR vaccine was linked to, or may cause, autism. His claims have now been totally disproved by every other study done previously or since on MMR and autism rates, and all reputable immune system and infectious diseases specialists. So now we know that MMR does not cause autism, nor do other vaccines.

Anti-vaccination contacts

I tried to find an anti-vaccination book or website that seems perfectly sober and reasonable. God knows I tried. But to be candid, I only found nutty ones. This is one of the reasons why the writings are almost always self-published - big publishing houses and magazines won't touch them. Most of the authors fervently claimed that immunisation doesn't prevent disease - which is demonstrably not true. Almost all books, websites and articles in "alternative" magazines quote the same handful of self-described researchers or experts.

You should be aware that many anti-vaccination websites are books repeat (as facts) claims that have been disproved - such as that vaccines cause autism, sudden infant death syndrome or cancer and that germs do not cause disease - or are unprovable. Most give lots of statistics, often obviously quoting from each other rather than primary sources, but on further investigation the statistics are selectively used or plain wrongly interpreted. Their info is almost always irrelevant to the UK (it's worth repeating that there's no mercury, known as thimerosal in routine UK child vaccines. The have said immunisation causes (variously) shaken baby syndrome, asthma, attention deficit disorder - in fact anything that has statistically risen since the introduction of vaccination including, to single out one US anti-vaccine activist, criminal behaviour (there is a whole book on the theory).

At the back it lists

Brian Deer's website by saying; A respected British investigative reporter wraps up the Dr Wakefield anti-MMR campaign story.

and Bad Science is there;

A British journo and doctor, Ben Goldacre runs a funny and entertaining site while he's being serious about why homeopathy won't work any better than a sugar pill, how the anti-MMR rumours gained such a following despite being utterly wrong, and how hopeless most reporters and TV Shows are when explaining science.

Book promoted;

Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for The Cure.
by Paul Offit

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver by
Arthur Allen, Norton 2007

Mr Allen uses his long experience as a journalist to detail the history of vaccines including a clear-eyed cataloguing of the problems, and covers the fight against polio, the eradication of smallpox, the anti-vaccination movement and the autism controversy.

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