Having grown up before there were vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) and chicken pox, Mark Tronson, chairman of Well-Being Australia, did not think any of these common diseases caused long-lasting problems.
The 'common' childhood diseases can cause lifelong problems
But he found that measles is a serious disease. 'Unexposed' populations have been decimated by European diseases, including measles. Two examples are the native populations of North and South America, and our own Aborigines. (www.skwirk.com.au)
Within his own extended family, Mark Tronson knows of four people over three generations whose health was damaged after they contracted measles (before the vaccination was available). One died of the associated kidney disease. His wife's mother contracted German Measles when pregnant and her eldest, Mark's wife has had life time serious hearing issues.
Throughout the world, according to http://www.skepdic.com/antivaccination.html, "There were an estimated 30 to 40 million cases of measles in 2000, causing some 777,000 deaths. ...immunisation can be credited with saving approximately 9 million lives a year worldwide."
Back in Australia, whooping cough has resurfaced in recent years. Although the manufacture of the vaccine has been improved, many parents in some communities refuse to have their children vaccinated. This enables the bacterium to circulate in the bodies of both children and adults and infect others. In contrast, in nearby towns where most parents do immunise their kids, there is a very low infection rate. (www.abc.net.au)
A recent 'Catalyst' program on ABC radio told of a baby who died from whooping cough after being infected, when her mother simply popped in to the school to collect her other child. Tiny babies are too young to be vaccinated, yet they are the most susceptible to dying from whooping cough, so Mark Tronson and his family ensured they had the free immunisations when his grand-daughter was born. (content.healthaffairs.org)
In the last few weeks, the preparations of Australia's Olympic swimming team were disrupted because whooping cough was diagnosed in three of the water polo players. Two of these people did not even have any symptoms, yet they were contagious.
Vaccinations are a much safer option
For four generations we have successfully protected our population from diptheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough. Over the past two generations, we have also protected our kids from measles, mumps, rubella and influenza. World-wide, smallpox has been eliminated and polio is well on the way out. It couldn't have happened without modern mass immunisation strategies.
Continual improvements in public health and knowledge of personal hygiene already started to reduce 'infant mortality' (babies less than one ) in Australia between 1881 and 1935 (from 130 down to 35 deaths per 1000); but added to this were many more deaths of children between the ages one and five. Then vaccination campaigns began and the number dropped quickly to 10 deaths per 1000 by 1975. Since then the rate has fallen to almost zero with the advent of vaccines for more diseases as fewer children actually get sick. (www.whale.to - Table V)
In actual numbers, the same statistics are: "National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) data revealed deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases decreased dramatically from 9300 in the decade 1926-1935, when the first vaccines became available, to 64 for the 10 years 1986-1995. In that period Australia's population rose to 2.6 times its original size." (neovox.journalismaustralia.com)
Before vaccinations, whole families of children sometimes got sick and died from a contagious disease. A very common story is seen in some old documents reported the Sydney Morning Herald. (www.smh.com.au)
Unfortunately, this still happens in countries where war or political instability or drought makes it very difficult for ongoing vaccination campaigns. The WHO reports increased incidence of diseases, after the death rates had been dropping, when breakdown of immunisation campaigns in various regions.
Vaccination works by giving the children either a carefully modified or 'killed' version of the disease, so that their normal immune system makes exactly the same antibodies as it would if they contracted the natural disease. The NSW Health Department (Australia) advised that adverse reactions caused death in less than 3 per million doses. This is hundreds of times less than deaths due to side-effects of the natural disease. http://neovox.journalismaustralia.com/immunisation_and_arn.php
A recent paper has analysed data for 40 years, and shown that a vaccination coverage rate of 90% needs to be maintained to keep childhood deaths from measles near zero. (www.plosone.org)
If unvaccinated children contract full-blown measles or mumps, a few will die BUT many more will develop long-term problems such as brain damage or deafness or (in the case of boys getting mumps) infertility. Some of those who catch rubella might unknowingly pass it on to a pregnant woman whose baby could be affected with physical deformities, or brain damage, or deafness (as the Tronson family knows from experience). Children or adults with whooping cough can infect a vulnerable baby or person with respiratory problems (as mentioned).
The dangers of influenza and the efficacy of the modern vaccines, particularly for the young and the old, have been emphasised on various news broadcasts this week.
"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
Proverbs 24 verses 3-4 (NIV) states: "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures"; and Proverbs 19 verse 2 (NIV) warns: "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way".
Some people appear to have more 'zeal' than 'knowledge', and are frightening others by citing the outdated and discredited 1998 paper of Dr Andrew Wakefield. This paper was so bad that it has now been WITHDRAWN from the British Medical Journal; a rare move by the editors. http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full
Not only was Wakefield's methodology inadequate; but in the intervening 14 years, NO other scientists have been able to reproduce his results. On the contrary, they have shown NO relationship between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and either autism or bowel disease.
In fact, more recent, ongoing research has shown that some neurological problems like autism might be genetic in nature, and not due to any external factors at all. (www.sciencedaily.com)
Mark Tronson is pleased he lives in a country where he has the right to choose health care, and where the standards are high. But 'rights' also bring 'responsibilities'. One responsibility is to heed the Bible and check the available knowledge without 'haste'; to seek sufficient 'wisdom' to build a 'beautiful house'. In this way, we can do our best to protect our own children, and also our whole community.
He adds that his views are greatly influenced by his family's history where measles has seriously affected some members over four generations, and moreover he nor his wife were going to be allowed near their grand children unless they were vaccinated against whooping cough. A measles medical alert was put out last week for Brisbane as someone with measles at the infectious stage was shopping and visited the Brisbane domestic airport. (www.brisbanetimes.com.au)
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at