Can you hear the parent’s weeping woes at night? – To Anti-vaxxers and Andrew Wakefield.

Featured photos credit: Pixabay

When Andrew Wakefield published his paper “Evidence of persistent measles virus infection in Crohn’s disease” in 1993, he ignited something revolutionary – the anti-vaccination movement. But it was not a good revolution. Wakefield possibly did not realise the hellfire and monsters he had unleashed.


That hellfire are also called disease outbreaks. The monsters? Vaccine-preventable viruses. Some of them are highly contagious and can be deadly to children. Before the introduction of measle vaccination in 1963, the disease causes around 2 –  3 million deaths each year. In 2017, this number is reduced to 117,000. Perhaps merely numbers are not adequate enough to depict the ugliness of the monster, let’s make this a bit personal.


The Lee family endured an ‘overwhelming’ experience. The mum recorded her 17 year old son’s measle infection story in disturbing detail:


“The painful itch that the rash caused overwhelmed him. His nights were spent on his back in bed with no shirt on and the windows open. He couldn’t sleep and one day he came into my room with his eyes all glossed over, and he started to cry because he didn’t know what day it was.”


Needless to say, no one wants to feel like that.


Scarlet was a happy 5 year old girl. She loved singing and dancing as hobbies. One day the school nurse sent her back home and told her mother, Rebecca that she had a fever. Without too much worry, Rebecca gave her Tylenol and cuddled her on the couch watching movies.


Things quickly escalated overnight however. Rebecca noticed that Scarlet had shortness of breath. She hastily drove her little girl to the local hospital. Doctors tried their best. But, Scarlet was declared dead within a few hours – taken by the H3N2 influenza. She was the first victim out of the 148 lives claimed by the H3N2 outbreak during 2014 – 2015.


So yeah. She was a happy 5 year old girl. Not ‘is’. ‘Was’.


People are dying, no children are dying. It is not immoral to be ignorant. But when ignorance has caused innocent children’s lives to be lost, it is time to question whether such ignorance should be continued.


Since the publication (now retracted) of Wakefield’s paper. Many anti-vaccination campaigns have been launched, some directly led by Wakefield himself. Perhaps it is a bit of stretch to hold them directly responsible for the deaths and sufferings we have just seen above. But to promote something that is directly opposite of saving lives is essentially an encouragement that leads to (preventable!) death. Here at closer to LIFE, we do not stand by this.


So the hellfire has rained down and the monsters now walk the earth. It first attacked Ireland in 2000, with 1500 cases reported as well as 3 deaths. Then, there is UK in 2006, which had 449 infections and 1 death. In 1998, only 56 infections were recorded there. The monsters did not show mercy to other western countries. In France, more than 22,000 cases were reported in 2008 – 2011. United States also had outbreaks most recently in 2008, 2011 and 2013. (Source)


In 2018, 41,000 measle infections were recorded with 37 deaths. All of this may just seem like numbers, but they are far from it. Every single case can be just as relatable as the Lee family, or little Scarlet. Behind the scene, there are lives lost, tears shed and funerals held.


It can be certain that anti-vaxxers’ incredible efforts to making their dreams come true have caused some of the lives lost during these years. Finally, Wakefield can be happy while swimming in the pool made out of the tears for those that cared for the victims.


Stop Anti-vaccination today. Share this around. It is time for us to build a better future, one that is closer to life.

Personal stories illustrated in the article were directly adapted from here and here on February 20, 2019, courtesy of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.