Vaccinations are part of a ‘bigger picture’ – Cathy Stephenson

The immense polarisation of opinions on immunisation has been highlighted through the response to Dr Lance O’Sullivan’s protest of an anti-vaccination documentary, GP Dr Cathy Stephenson writes on

An excerpt (read in full):

There are people in both camps whose views won’t be shifted – that’s fine by me. We live in a world where free speech and the right to hold opinions (however extreme they may be) is allowed. But what I do feel strongly about is ensuring that people hear the scientific facts before they decide on their opinion – the process of informed consent, in medical terms.

It’s sad that some people believe doctors are “pushing” vaccines, in the knowledge that they may do harm, as some sort of cover-up operation for the government. I can put my hand on my heart and tell you this isn’t the case.

Prior to the introduction of vaccines, millions of children and adults around the world died from diseases that we now don’t even really consider as threats – polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough to name a few.

If we look at measles as an example, in the pre-immunisation era around four million cases were reported in the United States each year – this number is now tiny in the US and here, due to high vaccination rates. However, in developing countries where they don’t have access to the vaccination, measles is still a very common infection.

We know that during outbreaks, around one in 1000 affected people will die, and one in 20 will end up in hospital. Compare this to the rates of adverse effects from the measles vaccination (less than one in a million doses given will lead to a severe allergic reaction) and for me the decision is actually quite simple.

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