Why are we still not vaccinating our children? | Crunched

The FT’s John Burn-Murdoch and Federica Cocco examine the data behind vaccination and why measles is back in the news. Cases have hit a 25-year high in America, with dozens of more serious outbreaks across the globe.

This week is international immunization week and vaccines have been all over the news i’ve seen so many stories about this massive measles outbreak and i’m just wondering right now haven’t we been here before one thing that strikes me as interesting having looked at some of the numbers here is that i thought the narrative was actually a good a positive narrative of

You know improvement so i either look at some stats from the world health organization so if we look here we’ve got the measles vaccination rates and up here we’ve got the rate of cases per million people and all these figures are global and in 1980 the numbers were up here so we had a lot of cases and relatively low vaccination rate but since then the numbers have

Trended consistently towards this positive corner up to 2011 where cases are now way down and the vaccination rate has improved we’ve gone from about 800 the rate of 800 cases here down to rate of about 10 cases here and vaccination rates have gone for about 15 percent up to about 85 percent so have we got rid of the measles question absolutely and actually let

Me pick up from 2011 because there was a really interesting database on the world health organization now although it’s a bit patchy it’s very ambitious because it has a number of measles cases every country in the world every month starting from january 2011 did a 12-month rolling average to have a look at the trend these are the global number of measles cases

This is the trend starting from 2011 to the last 12 months and dink in february 2000 19 and globally we have over 30,000 measles cases worldwide so my question is what’s happening now why is it that now people don’t feel safe vaccinating their kids maybe we could employee good old-fashioned nuance and actually look at the individual cases in a number of countries

And see what the underlying trend is in each case great idea let’s do it so i’ve got this really cool thing awesome that’s map measles cases so we’ve got an outbreak pretty big outbreak in ukraine good lord this cork is very hard one over here in new york city it’s they’ve been some cases in runs madagascar even some israel okay that spin the globe and start from

The uk the uk is arguably the birthplace of the anti beck’s movement thanks to a lancet article published in 1998 by a man called andrew wakefield no studies that since been retracted right was since retracted and this is what happened when this article this infamous article was published we’re gonna look at measles cases gonna look at vaccination rates this is in

England number of measles cases and then this is the trend that the vaccination rates lot took 1998 is when the wakefield article was published rabri 2010 is when the lancet withdrew yeah as you can see you know babies are born here it’s time to vaccinate them and measles cases rise as the coverage rate drops and then they go down again once the coverage rate too

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Recovers so there’s clearly a correlation between the percentage of proportion of kids that are vaccinated and the measles cases that go up so this is what’s happened in the uk it was the medical establishment that published this article i mean the lancet not a whole establishment published this article and that led to the public you know parents not wanting to

Vaccinate their kids even now sort of 21 years after the article came out there’s still a long shadow in terms of the authority of that article exactly because so we’ve ended this in 2014 but the most recent figures showed that measles cases have increased again and public health england had said it has said that this is because is happening amongst teenagers and

Young adults and in fact you must have heard you go to festivals don’t you have a young kid and the rice festival which is the one that replaced the beef festival in essex was cancelled because of a measles outbreak and this was happening as i said amongst 20 year olds you know around that age and it’s these kids that were born around this time that are getting

Measles now so okay that’s wrong maybe to ukraine yes so the really interesting thing ukraine so again we’re talking about a very recent outbreak this is an uptick in cases this year but there are some different dynamics going on here it’s not necessarily about the anti-vaccination movement now you had a look at the vaccine coverage rate in the ukraine and what did

You find that well in the ukraine it increased from a staggering staggeringly low 42 percent in 2016 to 86 percent in 2017 yet that hasn’t prevented or not break even though it’s a massive improvement although as we said before the data is a bit patchy still that shows an improvement and the reason that hasn’t had that much of an impact is because the world health

Organization says that there’s basically a threshold if under 93 to 95 percent of kids don’t get vaccinated it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been proved the outbreak is going to happen right and that’s because of what we could talk about as herd immunity so this idea that measles is such a contagious virus that it can spread really rapidly even if the vaccination

Rate drops just a tiny bit below 100 percent so what happened exactly in ukraine is it is it because are they anti-vaxxers as well good question and the interesting thing that’s happening there is that although a small part of it probably is to do with anti vaccination movements the big factor there is just a fundamental shortage of the vaccine when when rates drop


As low as 42% as they were in 2016 that’s not just because of a mass movement against vaccinations they simply didn’t have enough at the vaccine to go around so that’s another factor which certainly in in other countries like less developed parts of the world is often the reason that it takes a long time to get that initial vaccine coverage right up so another

One that i think so there’s an interesting illustration is this outbreak just a couple of months ago a couple of weeks ago in fact in new york another so that can come up is religious exceptions to having the vaccine so in certain parts of new york particularly among orthodox jewish communities there has been a sort of community-wide rejection of the vaccine a

Refusal to to have children vaccinated and so in certain religious schools the vaccination rate is as low as 60% so even though across new york state as a whole the vaccination rate the average is ninety two and a half percent in some schools it’s as low as 60 and of course in that in a community like that people are moving around interacting with one another

In close quarters so when you get one outbreak it spreads rapidly and that’s why we are now seeing hundreds of cases simply because of a religious reason to exempt children from the vaccine more broadly in the u.s. the anti max movement has also been endorsed by a number of high-profile celebrities jenny mccarthy comes to mind she gave a really famous interview

With larry king even donald trump is tweeted a couple of times about the link between vaccine and autism and this endorsement by celebrities and high-profile people something that’s happened in italy as well and that brings me to go mad because you know with the rise of populism we’ve seen a couple of politicians and some members of the five star movement come

To mind which have talked about this link this conspiracy theory about vaccinations and autism whilst researching this article we had a chat with a couple of colleagues and they all came up with their own interpretation of what’s going on so some people have talked about the rise of social media and fake news websites or there was an interesting theory about the

Rise of wellness and a backlash against medicalization or excessive medicalization rather so to me this is really more an epidemic of irrationality but i don’t want to believe that the world has gone mad so i was thinking that maybe we could have a chat to somebody that has really looked into this and maybe he can convince us that people are still in the right

Minds great idea who we gonna call so the person that i have in mind is bobby duffy he’s the head of policy at the king’s college previously he worked at it was maury and he had this survey this annual survey the ipsos mori did how the perceptions index and they focused on the gap between facts and how people perceive things and how sometimes flooding people with

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Facts and with information isn’t actually effective at all across over 30 countries asking and very depressingly about 20 percent of people thought that there was a link despite that being disproved on top of that 20 percent there’s 40 percent of people who are not sure one way or the other and it’s a very long-standing and consistent view and there’s a number of

Reasons for that first of all this is a very emotional issue particularly when you’re talking about the health of your kids when we’re in that emotional state where less good thinking about rational facts we kind of it worries us so we think is a bigger issue then it really is and this is about probabilities there are absolutely minuscule probabilities if you have

Underlying existing conditions but it’s it’s not really a factor that should be taken into account as soon as you raise that as an issue people are drawn to those vivid anecdotes and don’t think about the probabilities really this it’s not just about how we think those since both how we think and then what we’re told reflects a little bit this trend that we had

Towards balanced reporting where you would give two sides of an argument even though one side is discredited – you would typical example is 99% of scientists believe this but there is one percent of scientists who believe something else and the problem is that is we still hear and focus on the 1% more than we should and then finally you’ve also got people who are

Actively trying to mislead people things like the national vaccine information center which is actually just the front for campaigning groups when these things interact they become very sticky but this was not an issue that’s gonna go away very quickly is warm solution for hours in the me that we really think about the the use of emotions and emotional narratives

When we’re trying to inform people about things like vaccinations just throwing facts of people there’s a clear disconnect between facts and perceptions and a lot of that comes down to ineffective communication we both work with statistics we throw facts and stats around all day but emotions narratives are crucial to effectively communicating about vaccines so it’s

Not enough just to say you know vaccine rates are x and measles rates are y you’ve got to talk to people about the the pain of what it’s like to actually have your child contract measles and you know how this can be a pretty pretty traumatic experience that you should want to avoid at all costs and people are much more moved by that than just by reading a fact

Sheet and hopefully if we manage to achieve that then we’ll be able to some extent to prevent tragedies like this one

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Why are we still not vaccinating our children? | Crunched By Financial Times

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