Macau Matters | The Re-Emerging Measles Threat

Richard Whitfield

Every time a crackpot tells us that vaccinations have some problem the world becomes a more dangerous place. Science is based on empirical facts, and does not care whether you believe in it or not – it kills everybody the same. Crackpots with their “gut feel” and beliefs, on the other hand, are not science and will kill you randomly for your gullibility. That many people are stupid enough to unquestioningly believe much of the nonsense that is published, and that many journalists and others working in the media do not call these liars to task, leaves me dumbfounded, amazed and disheartened.

A case in point is Measles, and the vaccinations available to protect people from it. Measles is a purely human based and highly infectious airborne disease that spreads by coughing, sneezing, etc. and the virus can survive in the air for a few hours before entering a new patient. It is particularly dangerous for children, many of whom require hospital treatment after becoming infected. In 1980 Measles killed 2.6 million people globally, but because of the availability of a good vaccine and widespread public vaccination programs this number had dropped to 73,000 by 2014. Also, Measles was “eliminated” in the USA by 2000, which meant that the only cases found could be attributed to infected people bringing it into the country.

Unfortunately, especially in the Western world, Measles is on the rise because stupid people are not vaccinating themselves or their children. There were 372 cases in the USA in 2018 and there have been 200 so far in 2019 (as at 9 March). Generally, for “herd protection” at least 95% of a population needs to have been vaccinated, but in the USA nearly 50% of counties do not reach this level of protection. This is nearly all due to people refusing to have their children vaccinated on religious, “philosophical” and “personal freedom” grounds.

The human immune system is a wonderful thing, but needs to be “trained” as children grow, ie they need to be exposed to diseases to build their immunity. This is safely done through vaccinations which deliberately infect children safely with a reduced potency version of a disease. This well tested and proven approach has been effectively used to protect humanity from many diseases since the 1800’s.

Vaccination works in two important ways. Firstly, it immunizes the person vaccinated so they have a much reduced chance of catching the disease, and even if they do catch it, the effects are much milder. Secondly, if the whole population is vaccinated the disease cannot spread because the people exposed do not get infected, which greatly contains and limits the severity of any outbreak. Crucially, this “herd protection” only works if the whole population is vaccinated so that people refusing to vaccinate their children endanger not only themselves and their own children, but the whole population.

There is some claptrap about the MMR vaccine for Measles published on the Internet and elsewhere, but the truth is that it is a very safe and well proven vaccine that has been used to inoculate over 500 million people with only 0.0001% experiencing severe allergic reactions. There is absolutely no credible evidence that MMR vaccination causes autism – it was a medical hoax that has been thoroughly disproven.

It is particularly important for everybody living in Macau to be vaccinated against Measles. It is the best way to protect ourselves and our children and to maximize our “herd protection”. Herd protection is especially important given the large numbers of tourists visiting Macau and the large number of foreign workers living here who may catch it after visiting their homelands (because Measles has not been eliminated in the region). This is especially the case now, where we have had 23+ Measles cases in Macau in the last few months, many of whom were hospital staff (who, presumably, were not vaccinated).

Categories Opinion