As I was browsing the news recently, I was devastated to learn that the UK has recently lost its measles elimination status. For the first time ever since records began in 2012, four countries (the UK, Albania, Greece and the Czech Republic) have all seen a huge increase in measles cases, resulting the disease being officially classified as a threat once more.
Indeed, it seems that in the first 6 months of 2019 alone, cases of measles in the have rocketed to around 90,000 – more than the 84,462 cases that were reported for the whole of 2018.[i]
This is simply unacceptable, especially when a proven vaccine exists. Measles may not be a dangerous condition in all cases, but it can lead to severe complications including encephalitis and pneumonia – both of which can be fatal.[ii]
But why are cases of measles on the rise? The onus, unfortunately, appears to be on the rise of the anti-vaxxer movement. Anti-vaxxing has become a hot topic in recent years, with everyone from celebrities to people on mum’s forums weighing in with their opinions on the topic. This has had a considerably dangerous impact, as any misinformation can be easily spread through avenues such as social media, and this is influencing people’s ideas and resulting in people questioning solid evidence.
One of the core arguments used by anti-vaxxers is that these measures cause side effects such as autism. Countless research has been undertaken on the topic, and although some vaccines do have a very, very small chance of causing mild side effects such as febrile seizures, links to autism are completely unfounded and no evidence has been found to support this viewpoint.[iii]
The MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) in particular has been proven safe, and there is no reason why people should be preventing their children receiving this vaccination, especially as all three diseases it protects against can have dire consequences.
As dental professionals we of course cannot force our patients to vaccinate their children. What we need to do instead is ensure that our practices are safe areas where these illnesses aren’t given a chance to spread. Excellent infection control protocols are therefore essential, even more so if you have a high volume of children patients as it is these individuals who will be most at risk.
The anti-vaxx issue will eventually come to a head, but until then vigilance is key. If patients mention anything about having anti-vaxx views it’s imperative that you to tell them to consult a medical professional and receive proper advice. All we can do is ensure that our practices are as safe as possible, and give advice when necessary to help stem the rising tides of the anti-vaxx movement.
For further information please call EndoCare on 020 7224 0999
[i] Metro. UK Loses Measles Elimination Status After Vaccine Use Drops. Link: https://metro.co.uk/2019/08/29/uk-loses-measles-elimination-status-vaccine-use-dropped-10648938/ [Last accessed August 19].
[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine Safety. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/mmr-vaccine.html [Last accessed August 19].