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Health scares

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The first chill winds of autumn have brought in the traditional round of health scares, courtesy of the various government agencies

The first chill winds of autumn have brought in the traditional round of health scares, courtesy of the various government agencies. First to come rolling in is the fear that Britain - and especially London - now faces a measles epidemic because the take-up of the MMR vaccine has reached dangerously low levels.
The UK's public health 'watchdog', the Health Protection Agency, said that London is 'at imminent risk of a severe measles outbreak'. This will be followed within two years by a national outbreak. Up to 12 per cent of the nation's children, and 20 per cent of adults, will end up in hospital with the disease.
This is odd, because the same government's Department of Health said that they were unaware of any imminent epidemic. Indeed, cases of measles have been down on the previous year even though vaccination levels among two-year-olds has dropped to just 80 per cent, the lowest level since 1995 when up to 92 per cent were vaccinated.
This was around the time when a similar agency, the Public Health Laboratory Service, was forecasting a similar epidemic, and was urging parents to give their children a measles booster vaccine.
The earlier scare raised a number of issues. First, it suggests that the vaccine does not offer the protection that its advocates claim - and, indeed, this is the case because most children who get measles are vaccinated. Second, how did the agency know there was going to be an epidemic?
When their figures were reanalyzed, it was discovered that there had been a serious miscalculation. Less generous critics said it was a deliberate ploy to hoodwink the public, a claim that was never refuted.
So are we being hoodwinked again in order to fall in line? We're confident that a government with a track record of always telling the truth would never do such a thing.
Scare number two is as predictable as Christmas lights in October - step forward the annual flu epidemic. Again, government health agencies are wringing their hands after a major manufacturer of flu vaccines had its licence withdrawn when it revealed stocks had been contaminated. The manufacturer supplies half of all flu vaccines made available in the USA, while in the UK vaccines will be made available only to the most vulnerable. The shortage could result in a 'public health nightmare', one American commentator said.
This sudden frenzy assumes one major fact: that the vaccines actually offer protection. Sadly there is little evidence that they do, and no wonder when nobody yet knows the strain of flu that may, or may not, attack the UK and the USA this winter.
Of course health officials could be telling people how to improve their nutritional status to ward off the worst effects of any flu bug, but far better to offer the 'magic bullet' approach, we assume.
* The full story of the MMR vaccine, and ways to improve your immune system against that and the flu, are explained in the WDDTY Vaccination Bible. To order your copy, click on this link:


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