A doctor has urged parents to vaccinate their children and said that those who don’t are dangerously misinformed.
GP Brian Higgins said that no child should die from measles in this day and age.
Writing for the Irish Independent Dr Higgins said that in the 1980s, measles was a common illness in children and could lead to other serious illnesses and ailments such as pneumonia, infections and even death.
By the end of the decade, cases of measles had fallen to around 2% of the rates in the early ‘80s and scientists were projecting that the disease would be eradicated from Europe by the year 2010.
It was thanks to the use of vaccinations. Children were protected from contracting the disease – and in turn protected from the other illnesses that could develop as a result of suffering from measles.
However, recently society has taken a backward step. Dr Higgins said that two of his patients in Ireland contracted from measles in 2018. The number of people in Europe to have contracted the disease last year is estimated to be around 41,000 – 37 of whom died.
The reason for the rise is that some parents have refused to allow their children to be vaccinated.
This is due to misinformation being circulated on social media that links vaccinations to other illnesses, such as autism.
British medic Andrew Wakefield published research in 1998 that linked vaccinations to health issues. His claims were debunked and he was struck off the UK medical register. However, the misinformation spread, and measles has followed closely behind.
Dr Higgins said: “People became scared. Understandably so. They trusted what this article said and unscrupulous, or ignorant (make up your own minds) people fanned their fears.
“Ill-informed but well-meaning parents were afraid to harm their children with the MMR and chose not to vaccinate. Ironically, sadly, these good intentions harmed children.
“Vaccine rates remained high enough that we didn’t often see children being admitted to hospital with the complications of measles; the risk of measles didn’t feel immediate.
“The scaremongering, the vaccine bogeyman, kept people awake and more and more people chose not to vaccinate.”
Dr Higgins says that a child’s right to health is more important than a parent’s right to make a wrong decision.
It is not just a child who has not been vaccinated who becomes at risk when they contract the disease.
He said: “All parents do what they think is right. Decisions are made from a good place but the sad fact is those people who chose not to vaccinate are doing something very wrong in the belief they are doing the right thing.
“Most people do not realise that they are not just putting their own child at risk, they risk the spread of illness by choosing not to vaccinate.
“The child with measles could sit beside someone with a poor immune system in my waiting room, or on a train, or in school, cough on them and kill them.”
Dr Higgins urged parents to change their mind if they have so far resisted allowing their child to be vaccinated.
He said: “There is an outbreak of measles at the moment and there is a safe an validated method of preventing the spread. If you are someone who has chosen not to vaccinate your children, contact your local doctor. They will always be delighted to protect your child by providing a catch-up vaccine.”