Countries around the globe are beginning to loose their elimination status with regards to measles. Aotearoa New Zealand has not lost its elimination status – yet. But according to the director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, we have lost our herd immunity. For measles, a 95% immunisation rate is required to maintain herd immunity. We are no longer have the rate of immunisation. This doesn’t bode well when it comes to eliminating the current outbreak, which is reaching epidemic proportions.
So far this year, around 850 cases have been reported, most occurring in Auckland. In the last fortnight, there have been 10 new cases reported outside of Auckland, but within the city there have been 230 new cases.
Child immunisation is free in this country, so why are fewer parents immunising their children than in the past? Complacency is possibly a major reason. We have been officially measles free for such a long time that some parents simply don’t see the need to make an effort. These parents simply ignore or fail to understand the herd immunity concept.
I wonder how the anti-vax movement has formed opinion in this country? A Pew research poll in the US indicated that anti-vaxxers were almost evenly distributed between conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, rich and poor. I don’t think there’s as many conspiracy theorists here as in America, but if there is, they hide themselves better. Has there been any research into identifying what sections of the community have lower rates of immunisation, and have there been any programs targeting those sections, particularly where immunisation rates are lower than that required for herd immunity?
While there have been no deaths attributed to the current measles outbreak, health officials have stated it’s only a matter of time, before someone succumbs – probably where age or a medical condition that prevents him/her from being vaccinated and who must rely on herd immunity for protection.
What really makes me angry is those parents who avoid vaccinating their children because they believe there’s a link between vaccinations and autism. For goodness sake, even if there was a link, which there isn’t, is the death of your child (or someone else’s due to that lack of herd immunity) or a life time of problems resulting from a serious infection a better option than your child being autistic?
What is so terrible about being autistic? While it’s true that we experience the world differently, that in itself does not make our life a burden nor should it be one for a parent with proper resources. Our struggles as autistics are due to society being unwilling to accommodate our needs. If the tide was turned and non-autistic people were a tiny minority in an autistic world, they too would find life very difficult at times.
If you believe we are facing an autism epidemic, you’re wrong. I’m not convinced that autism is anymore prevalent today than it was a century ago or even a millennium ago. I did not become autistic when I turned 60. I have been the same all my life. I was not misdiagnosed as not being autistic when I was a child. The thought never occurred to those who loved me. If I had been presented for an autism diagnosis I would not have got one when I was a child. The reality is that the clinical definition of autism has changed. Turn it back to what it was in the 1950s and bingo! The “epidemic” will disappear overnight. Would that be wise? Hell no! It would be turning the clock back to the bad old days. We’d still be the same, but our difficulties would be ignored, punished, or hidden away in institutions
On the other hand, the measles epidemic is real. It’s not something that has been created with smoke and mirrors. Isolation wards are real. Herd immunity is a real phenomenon. It relies on everyone who is able to play their part. That means being immunised. If you or your children haven’t been immunised, do it! Now!