Anti-vaccine campaign being blamed for whooping cough epidemic

Anti-vaccine campaign being blamed for whooping cough epidemic

An anti-vaccine campaign has been blamed for the drastic increase in cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, in California.

Till June 10 this year, the California Department of Public Health recorded a total of 3,458 pertussis cases. Nearly 800 of those cases were reported in the final two weeks of that period. The total is more than all pertussis cases reported in the entire 2013.

Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, has cautioned that the disease might peak this year. Pertussis is a cyclical disease that peaks every 3-5 years. The disease' last peak in the state occurred in 2010, when 9,159 cases were recorded.

The 2010's figure represented the highest spike of pertussis since 1947. At that time, just 91 per cent of kindergarteners had been vaccinated against the disease in the state.

Late last year, a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, blamed an anti-vaccine campaign for the outbreak. The researchers tracked the number of parents who filed for NMEs (nonmedical exemptions) from California's vaccination program and compared the date with reported cases of whooping cough. The researchers found that those within an exemption cluster were 2.5 times more likely to reside in a region with an outbreak of pertussis.

The anti-vaccine campaign was started by physician Andrew Wakefield who linked MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccine with the inception of autism, prompting many parents not to get the children vaccinated.

Criticizing the campaign, the New Republic's senior editor Julia Ioffe wrote, "The movement that was once a fringe freak show has become a menace, with foot soldiers whose main weapon is their self-righteousness. For them, vaccinating their children is merely a consumer choice."

Wakefield's anti-vaccine campaign originally started in Great Britain in 1998, when he first linked MMR vaccine with the onset of autism. But, he was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and banned from practicing medicine in Britain. Then, he moved to Texas and re-started his controversial campaign.

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