Anti-vaxxers are sparking massive measles outbreaks in 15 European countries

Measles made a huge comeback in Europe in 2017 with over 21,000 new cases being reported across the continent, according to an alarming report from the German news outlet Deutsche Welle. The data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) last month shows measles cases quadrupled from the previous year.

In 2017, Europe saw 35 people die from the disease.

“Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated,” said WHO Regional Director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, adding that outbreaks of the disease and its resulting deaths are a “tragedy we simply cannot accept.”

According to the latest WHO data, Romania had the highest number of measles infections with 5,562 new cases. It was followed by 5,006 in Italy and 4.767 in Ukraine. Greece and Germany were also among the top five.

Last year, Italy announced it was suffering from a measles “epidemic” and estimated that only 85 percent of its under two-year-olds are vaccinated against the disease.

The ongoing wave of anti-vaccine hysteria can be traced back to a single study that appeared in the Lancet medical journal — a study that was outright debunked in the science world. In a 2011 issue of the BMJ (British Medical Journal), investigative reporter Brian Deer slammed the Lancet study linking vaccines to autism as fraudulent, pointing out that key facts were distorted to support the autism link.

The study claimed that 8 children developed “regressive autism” after getting a combination of vaccines to prevent mumps and rubella. The study was led by Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor who had his license revoked in May of 2011 as a result of “serious professional misconduct.” After reviewing the health records of the subjects involved in the study and interviewing their families and doctors, Deer found numerous inconsistencies which were highlighted in a 2011 report from NPR.

In Wakefield’s study, only 1 of 9 children said to have regressive autism were confirmed to actually have the condition. Three of the children in the study had no form of autism at all. The study claimed that all the children were normal and showed no symptoms before vaccination, but it was later discovered that five had preexisting developmental problems.

Speaking to Global News. Dr. Benjamin Mazer of Yale-New Haven Hospital said despite the discrediting of Wakefield, the anti-vaccine movement still uses his debunked claim as a core foundation of their ideology.

“There will be no study that will convince them otherwise. Despite the retraction and discipline of Dr. Wakefield, he is still held up as a hero of the movement,” he said.

Featured image via mediacolor/Alamy

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