Measles is on the rise - the time for us to take action is now

Measles is on the rise, but vaccination is simple - and vital, says Sharon Griffiths

Measles is on the rise, but vaccination is simple - and vital, says Sharon Griffiths - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sharon Griffiths says young children must get vaccinated against measles as the viral illness is on the rise

Measles is not fun – and it's on the rise.

At best it means miserably uncomfortable scratchy days in a darkened room – because the light hurts your eyes. At worst, it means death.

In between, there are all sorts of other complications.

My friend Sian – long dark hair, good at skipping and singing – got meningitis as a result of getting measles. She died at six years old.

A friend's happy, healthy young brother developed inflammation of the brain after measles, became badly physically and mentally disabled and spent the rest of his life in institutions.

That was in the Olden Days, of course, before the introduction of the MMR vaccine against, measles, mumps and rubella.

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So you'd think, wouldn't you, that most sensible caring parents would leap at the chance to protect their children from such horrors?

No. Vaccination rates are falling. They've been going steadily downhill for the last four years. As a result, rates of measles are rising all over Europe. So much so, that France has introduced compulsory vaccination. In the USA you have to have proof of your vaccinations before you start school.

Because not vaccinating your child doesn't just affect them. That would be bad enough – but they could happily pass the measles bug to vulnerable people, especially babies yet to have the vaccines, with disastrous consequences.

Mass vaccination works because everyone is covered.Ideally we need around 95% of children to be vaccinated to make measles virtually unknown. But we're down to 87% and falling. Thirty-seven children have died in Europe this year from something entirely preventable.

Last week the chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies put some of the blame on the witless, clueless idiots of social media, peddling ideas about a once supposed link between MMR and autism, a link based on dubious research which has long been smashed to smithereens.

These parents are acting out of misguided principle. Others fail to get their children vaccinated out of simple fecklessness.

In Australia parents get a cash payment when their children have completed the course of vaccinations. That's how important it is not just for each individual child's sake but for every other child too.

Mass vaccination is like a super strong safety net. But once a safety net has too many holes in it, then it's worse than useless. That's why we have to persuade parents of the life and death importance of vaccination.

Today's parents of babies are too young to remember Life Before Vaccinations when a little girl going home early from playing because she didn't feel very well was actually going home to die.

Sian's parents would have given everything they had for the chance of a vaccination.

For Sian's sake and all the other children who could still be at risk, get your babies vaccinated. Please.

Are we really so hopeless?

Everywhere we go we're bossed around by anonymous voices telling us to Mind the Gap or Be Aware that Floors can be Slippy in Wet Weather, that hot drinks might be hot, surfaces might be hot and if the weather's hot we should carry water with us.

My car is constantly beeping at me to keep me in line. Supermarkets won't let me buy more than two packs of Paracetamol at a time (though I could buy cratefuls of booze quite merrily if I wished) and even the keyboard on which I'm typing this comes with a health warning.

We are reminded to wash our hands, look both ways, avoid sharp objects, not to eat our handcream or drink the flower food and to keep away from children.

And now we have instructions on how to write a birthday card…

On the back of a card I bought from Marks and Spencer last week is a note saying 'If using a fountain pen, please allow a few moments for your ink to dry.'

Really? Gosh. Anyone old enough to use a fountain pen might just have worked it out too.

I wonder which bright spark thought such a message was necessary and how much he or she was paid.

As M & S has just announced falling sales and a decline in revenue, perhaps they should have more important things to think about than an occasional smudged birthday card.

Mind how you go…

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