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Tuesday 16 July 2019
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Editorial

Measles vaccinations a must

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh wasn't playing around about the need for children attending school to be properly vaccinated against measles. Deyalsingh cited TT law to clarify his hard-line approach to the vaccination certificate requirement, which he promised to rigidly apply from September this year. There shouldn't be any sensible pushback on vaccination, but it’s possible that anti-vaxxers, parents who are against the medical regime of vaccination, might have a say. That’s become a popular movement in the US, and one lubricated by some participation among actors and actresses, but it isn't a perspective that should take root here.

Anti-vaxxers tend to rely on unscientific responses to the principle of vaccination, which makes the human body mildly ill with a measured exposure to the targeted virus or bacteria to build a robust antibody reaction in the bloodstream. It is a simple fact that in a small number of vaccination cases, recipients become mildly ill or suffer minor side-effects. The measles vaccine may cause a child to run a fever, present a rash or mild discoloration. Another fact that may be missed in the discussion is the tremendous cost of not having a thorough regime of vaccination.

Measles is a highly contagious and infectious disease. It is airborne and travels quickly through the sneezes and coughs of an infected person. This is a nightmare for the school system. Once infected, there is no cure and palliative care is necessary until the virus runs its course. Patients are contagious from four days before the distinctive rash appears and up to four days after.

While the numbers of infected people have dropped steadily since 2000, measles still affects more than 20 million people a year, many of them in developing nations that are still implementing vaccination protocols. In rare cases, measles patients die from the disease, which can cause inflammation of the brain. Global fatalities have dropped from an estimated 2.6 million people in 1980 to 73,000 in 2014 because of the preventive measure of vaccination.

Anyone can get measles, though children under five are at highest risk for fatal outcomes. Anyone close to an infected person who has not been exposed to it, either through vaccination or infection is likely to be infected as well.

The success of vaccination in the Americas and the Caribbean has tended to diminish concern about the disease, but control is not the same as disappearance. What's needed in local schools is a clear understanding of the value of vaccination, an acknowledgement of its normally temporary side effects and a sober championing of the advantages of a peremptory strike against readily transmissible diseases.

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