David Kirby, author of Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy, once wrote that questioning the safety of vaccines is like speaking out against motherhood. I think even talking about vaccines critically is like challenging someone's religious beliefs. For obvious reasons the media outlets are the loudest supporters of vaccination. The premise always is "vaccines are safe, vaccines save lives." Not vaccinating endangers not only your child, but everyone else's as well. Feeble attempts at being "fair and balanced" usually mean citing a number of health officials or doctors to convince us vaccines can do no wrong while including a non-vaccinating parent. And autism--that mysterious condition affecting more and more children for no discernible reason--is usually mentioned in passing, but of no real consequence.
The press has taken this position for so long, that it's impossible for them to ever objectively present this issue. They have just as much at stake as pharma-funded health officials and doctors. Throw in the influence and control exercised by drug company advertisers and it's easy to see why we never see this controversy honestly and thoroughly covered.
Two British institutions are raising concerns over people not being vaccinated, both in the UK and around the world as these two stories show. There is absolutely no acknowledgement that there is an inherent risk to vaccination as with any medical product. In both pieces Andrew Wakefield's 1998 Lancet study is blamed for parents linking vaccines with autism.
The underlying message is that it's inexcusable not to vaccinate your children, all the science says vaccines are safe. Over and over each and every day, this is the message given to parents.
Millions of children in England risk contracting potentially fatal diseases as vaccination rates continue to fall for the second year running. According to Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, about 3m children and adolescents may have missed their mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine....
Low vaccination rates are a particularly English problem: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all achieve the WHO target, although there are pockets, particularly in economically deprived urban areas, where they fall short. In England, the national rates are 2-3% below WHO recommended levels. In some urban areas, particularly those with high levels of deprivation and minority ethnic populations, rates fall towards 80%. This creates a high risk of outbreaks of serious childhood diseases.
Reasons for the fall in uptake
The decline in vaccination rates is often attributed to parental resistance provoked in the late 1990s by the now-discredited claim made by Andrew Wakefield of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
...The improvement in vaccination rates seems to have come to a halt or reversed slightly in the last two years. This is a time when there have been increasing cutbacks in Sure Start children’s centres – their numbers and budgets are down by about a quarter since 2010 – and problems in sustaining GP vaccination clinics among the other pressures on primary care....
Overt resistance is much less common. There are a small number of “new age” parents, whose preferences for alternative medicine could probably be accommodated without compromising herd immunity.
Of more concern is the emerging group of affluent parents who are opting out because they believe they can micromanage all risks to their children. This group has not been studied in the UK, but recent work in California found that where there is a critical mass of parents who think this way in a school catchment, refusal rates are high because the parents believe that the minimal risks from vaccination need not be accepted. They can insulate their children from the “others” who carry infectious disease. Their children do not share school classrooms, public transport or public leisure facilities with children from poorer backgrounds. Their children’s social contacts are carefully supervised so that they only mix with other children from a similar background whose parents think in the same way. They seem to be the forerunners of the “helicopter parents” who hover over their children at university and even into first employment.
Sept 9, 2016, Vox.com: Think Americans fear vaccines? Check out the French
Public trust is critical when it comes to vaccines. When people lose their confidence in immunizations and see them as useless, unhelpful, or downright harmful, they are less likely to get the lifesaving shots. And when people don’t get their immunizations, terrible, vaccine-preventable diseases like measles or whooping cough are more likely to flare up.
In a new study, published in EBioMedicine, researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London, and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in Singapore tried to measure vaccine confidence around the world. In the largest survey on the subject ever conducted, they asked 66,000 people in 67 countries about their views on the importance, safety, and effectiveness of vaccines.
The aim was simple: To take the global temperature on vaccine sentiment and identify which countries might be at risk of "vaccine confidence crises" and, therefore, outbreaks....
Countries least confident in vaccine safety
France (41 percent of people surveyed disagreed that vaccines are safe)
...France had far and away the most science denialistsin the survey, with nearly half of respondents (41 percent) disagreeing that vaccines are safe. (The study authors point out that this is more than three times the global average of 12 percent.)
The United States fell somewhere in the middle. Of the 1,000 people in the US surveyed, 14 percent disagreed vaccines were safe and 10 percent disagreed vaccines were effective. Lead study author Heidi Larson thought this average, however, masked some variation in the country....
This study, led by the discredited physician-researcher Andrew Wakefield, has since been thoroughly eviscerated: The Lancet retracted the paper, investigators have described the research as an "elaborate fraud," and Wakefield has lost his medical license.