menu ☰
menu ˟

Fighting the anti-vaxxers

26 Apr 2017

Dr Ruari Hanley

With just half of adolescent girls starting the recommended HPV vaccine series last September, Dr Ruairi Hanley has a simple solution to get back to the recommended 80 per cent target — cut the children’s allowance of anti-vaxxers.

Some months ago, I expressed my dismay in this column at the ongoing campaign being waged against the Gardasil HPV vaccine. This scientific breakthrough has the potential to save the lives of hundreds of young women in the decades to come. Regrettably, thanks to the efforts of a minority of campaigners, and the irrational world of the internet, thousands of parents are denying their daughters this cancer-preventing jab.

Meanwhile, as Dr Muiris Houston recently pointed out in these pages (‘Weakened immunity to conspiracy theories’, March 3, 2017), a separate, broader ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement is gaining ground in the US. This is naturally being blamed on Donald Trump, who has expressed some deeply worrying views on this subject in the past. However, one of the leading vaccine critics appears to be one Robert Kennedy (nephew of JFK), whose family could hardly be described as supporters of the Republican Party.

Thankfully, he has yet to gain much of a following in this country, but already I see his name popping up with favourable mentions on some Irish websites.

In truth, when it comes to anti-vaccination scaremongering there is much blame to go around. The bulk of it rests with those who peddle unscientific garbage online in an effort to support their own irrational views. The journalists who disseminate such drivel, and the politicians who give it a sympathetic hearing, also bear much responsibility for the subsequent human suffering that inevitably occurs when immunisation levels fall.

However, I must again point out that the culture of political correctness dominating our profession has also played a role. I believe the obsessive desire of GPs to avoid appearing judgemental has made the situation worse. Rather than simply dismissing the arguments of anti-vaccine campaigners, far too many of my colleagues have sought to reason with them through education and explaining basic concepts like cause and effect. They thus inadvertently created a debate that should never have existed in the first place. It does not work because the people it is aimed at simply do not want it to work.

Left-wing doctors struggle to understand this mindset because in their world all problems can be solved by spending more of other people’s money and then throwing resources at the issues. The trouble is that anti-vaccination campaigners the world over do not think like that. Reason does not impact on them and engagement merely pours petrol on the fires of their obsession, effectively reinforcing their views. All we can do is minimise the impact they have on others by refusing to engage any further.

There can be only one way to solve this, one which I will propose yet again. Barring exceptional circumstances, any parent who fails to complete the childhood immunisation schedule loses 50 per cent of their children’s allowance payment until the child reaches the age of 18. Overnight, this problem would be solved.

We have tried the politically correct method and we are not winning. Why don’t we try my way instead?

Bolt from the blue
A few weeks ago I ventured to Britain by ferry and coach for the Aintree Grand National. Needless to say, the horses I backed are still out there somewhere, but I was kind enough to spare readers my tips on this occasion.

Travelling by boat to the UK involves passing through Holyhead in North Wales. This port is undoubtedly remembered by a generation of older emigrant readers as a kip when they journeyed through it in the 1980s. I can assure them it is just as big a kip today.

On my previous visit to the Grand National, the tour company arranged for us to stay in Chester, which is an incredibly beautiful town steeped in history dating back to the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, for reasons I am unaware of, this time around the travel agent took us all to a hotel in Bolton, many miles from our port of entry.

This was my first visit to that town and I will not be hurrying back. Frankly, Bolton makes poor old Holyhead look like Venice. The lads on the bus with me were not exactly shrinking violets, but even they felt a sense of danger walking the streets at night. An air of menace lurked in every corner, with evidence of severe social deprivation widespread. It was a deeply depressing and once proud place, which seems to have lost all hope for the future.

UK election
I was reminded of my visit when I heard the announcement that a snap UK general election will take place on June 8. Bolton is one of many areas that voted strongly for Brexit last year, with immigration and a feeling of a loss of British identity reported as one of the core reasons behind that vote locally. Having visited the place, I simply cannot blame them. These people had nothing to lose.

It now appears that depressed towns in the North of England look set to abandon Labour and give the Conservatives their biggest majority for 30 years. The hard left rhetoric of Jeremy Corbyn is being rejected by communities that stuck with his party for generations.

These people have been abandoned and unfairly dismissed as bigots by the metropolitan elites in London. They are running out of hope.

I genuinely hope that Brexit delivers for them in a way that the EU never did.

The post Fighting the anti-vaxxers appeared first on Irish Medical Times.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times: Opinion