Letter to the Editor: Vaccines and the outbreak of reason

Letter to the Editor: Vaccines and the outbreak of reason

I must note my disappointment at your decision to publish a letter (‘Compulsory vaccination goes against human rights’, September 3) which is highly critical of vaccines.

Debate on any matter is always welcome. However, we must be careful that when seeking to present opposing views it does not cause us to tread beyond reality. In this instance, debate should take place within a framework of established scientific fact rather than a misleading pro versus anti-vaccination binary.

The letter writer, Mr Walton, mentions the “Mawson study” as evidence of unvaccinated children having less medical issues. This study was described by the fact-checking outlet Snopes as being a “case-study in how to publish a misleading paper with faulty data”.

The data analysed in the study was collected by distributing an online survey link through a network of home-schooling organisations. Home-schooled children are less likely to visit the doctor. This in turn makes parents less likely to report health issues in an online survey, as there is a lower chance of them being aware of such issues. It is one of a cacophony of errors made by the authors of the report. It is also important to note that the report was financed by vaccine-sceptic groups.

Citing the inability of vaccines to fully eradicate measles as evidence, the author “exposes” herd immunity as a myth. This fails to understand what herd immunity is and how it protects people from illness. Rather than being the complete eradication of a disease, herd immunity breaks chains of contagion when a sufficient proportion of the population are vaccinated, thus providing an indirect form of protection. It is crucial for those who are more vulnerable to disease but cannot receive vaccines such as people on chemotherapy and young babies.

Furthermore, a significant reason for the failure to eradicate measles has been the lower uptake which resulted from a vaccine scare in the late nineties. The eradication of smallpox has demonstrated how high vaccine uptake can successfully eliminate a disease.

These arguments are made in the context of the author’s opposition to mandatory vaccination. While I myself would support this proposal, I respect that there are moral dilemmas surrounding such measures. In the meantime, if the matter is to become an issue of public debate, I would suggest that Mr Walton reacquaint himself with the science of vaccination. He might then find himself susceptible to an outbreak of reason.

Luke Carroll

Labour Party Local Area Representative for the Cork City North West Ward

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