Yet Another MMR Scare

[BPSDB]It never ends. Now the What Doctors Don’t Tell You website is trying to revive the MMR hoax with this scare story saying that 40 UK children have been killed by MMR.

The story opens:

Forty children have died after a routine vaccination such as MMR and 2,100 more have suffered a serious reaction, UK health authorities have been forced to disclose this week – and these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.

Two of the vaccinated children have been left with permanent brain damage, and 1500 others have suffered neurological reactions, including 11 cases of brain inflammation and 13 cases of epilepsy and coma. Overall, there have been more than 2,100 adverse reactions to a childhood vaccine in the UK in the last seven years.

As an aside, there is no justification for WDDTY’s claim that these figures are “the tip of the iceberg” and they do not offer any, merely state that it is “suspected” that only ten percent of deaths and reactions are ever reported. They do not say from where they have conjured this figure. One distinct possibility came up when Bad Science discussed this very matter. One poster mentioned that, in a discussion on JABS he mentioned that it was his opinion that only 10% of adverse reactions are reported, partly because patients tend not to report the less serious ones. He never said that only ten percent of deaths are reported, so the 400 deaths bit is completely bogus. And indeed has not a jot of evidence to support it.

The next point to notice is that the forty deaths were after vaccinations “such as MMR”. So even if we accept the forty deaths as being due to vaccination (which I don’t necessarily; anti vaccination campaigners in India made much abouit a girl dying after receiving the HPV vaccine. She did die. She was run over by a bus – the point being that correlation does not prove cause and effect), MMR has only played a part in it.

According to this the UK vaccination schedule gives pre-schoolers a total of 12 injections, girls in early secondary school 3 more and school leavers get one, so the adverse outcomes referred to by WDDTY would be due to alee of these not just MMR. I was going to look at the consequences of getting rid of all these but that would risk this post becoming a huge mass of numbers (even bigger than it’s going to be anyway) so like WDDTY, I’ll just focus on MMR.

I wanted to find the total number of children born in the UK during the last seven years and managed to find the following:

2009: 706,248
2008: 708,711
2007: 690,013
2006: 635,679

From here, here and here.

The figures for earlier years did not seem to be easily available (or my google-fu is weak) but given the above and the fact that the number of live births rose steadily between 2001 and 2008, an approximate average of 650,000 per year seems reasonable. This would mean 4.5 million live births over the period in question.

Back in January 2009 I considered the consequences of not using MMR, basing my figures on the DoH Green Book.

If the vaccination did not exist, 4.3 million would have caught measles, mumps and rubella. 1290 would die and over 200,000 would suffer serious debilitating symptoms., many of them permanent. I was going to go into detail but I think I’ll stop there and just say that these figures confirm that people like me and my wife do the right thing by ensuring our children get all their vaccinations.

Thanks are due to tom p and other Bad Science forumites for putting their thinking on line for me to mine.

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17 Responses to “Yet Another MMR Scare”

  1. Guy Chapman Says:

    Well done, thanks, saved me an age of digging. Time to register “wwddtydty.com” ;-)

  2. Katy Says:

    according to web figures 400 US citizens die each year because of reactions to penicillin, I can add some anecdata about being hospitalised as a teenager as a result of being given this evil big pharma drug….

    perhaps the anti-vaccer parents should also be warned against the evils of giving youngsters antibiotics to cure infections…

    (it may speed up the natural selection process, but it would seem a little cruel)

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      1. The original post was about vaccination, not antibiotics.

      2. How many US citizens get potentially fatal infections each year but are saved by antibiotics?

      3. Care to give a link to some evidence supporting your claim?

      • Katy Says:

        Erm, nevermind, obviously a failure…

        was only trying to point up (with what I thought was an obvious example) the issues with use of “Shock Horror X People Died from Y” headlines.. as press / alt-med could manufacturer similar from stats like the one quoted.

  3. Michael Ringland Says:

    I just signed up with the good people, at WDDTY. Someone blogged about a machine that emits light (of different colours) that cures “everything”. Dam! I thought, all those years studying – and I also missed the lecture on “how we can rip off the public, make millions, and not care a sod about the patients we have”. If anyone has the notes of that lecture, please send ASAP. Just how can anyone take these folk seriously has me baffled.

  4. Scare stories and MMR vaccine: What if there is a measles outbreak? « Stuff And Nonsense Says:

    [...] Tell You website is up with a new scare story about MMR vaccine. The scare story itself has been debunked but let us take a look at the advantage that MMR vaccine provides by preventing measles and what [...]

  5. Tony Says:

    Slight problem with your calculations, as the doh figures seem to be about 100 years out of date,
    In London the MMR uptake has been below 50% for years,
    So if over half of the children in London aren’t vaccinated, then where are all the resulting measles deaths?,
    after all they aren’t protected by herd immunity and living in London, you can’t say they are too isolated to be exposed to measles.

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      I don’t know where you got your 50% figure from. According to
      this
      , the coverage in London ranges from 64% to 92%.

      And if you look at the table here you will see that in the UK as a whole during the period 2003 to 2008 there were ~19,000 reported cases of measles with 5 deaths – suggesting that the 1 in 5,000 figure I give in the blogpost is approximately correct (well, a slight undestimate if I’m honest.)

  6. Clam Says:

    JQH, you pointed Tony at a WHOLE PAPER! How do you expect an anti-vaccine nut to be able to read through all that? If it isn’t headlined in the Mail in less than 10 words, it doesn’t exist.

  7. Tony Says:

    The 50% figure came courtesy of Ben Goldacre (see Press Gazette interview in 2008) and the table you link to states that since 1992 there has only been two deaths from acute measles, one in 2006 of a 13 year old male who had an underlying lung condition and was taking immunosuppressive drugs. The other death in 2008 was a child with congenital immunodeficiency.

    So for the past 18 years, there has only been two deaths from acute measles, both in immunocomprimised children.
    So with ~70,000 reported cases of measles, there has been no deaths from acute measles in non immunocompromised children, this is at the same time as MMR vaccination rates have fallen to below 50% in London.

  8. Clam Says:

    There you are, I told you he can’t read. The paper above about vaccine uptake bears out JQH and the table above shows 23 deaths from measles since 1992.

  9. jaycueaitch Says:

    You wouldn’t care to give a link supporting your 50% vaccination figure would you, Tony?

  10. Tony Says:

    http://www.badscience.net/2009/02/legal-chill-from-lbc-973-over-jeni-barnetts-mmr-scaremongering

    “MMR vaccine uptake has dropped from 93% to around 75%, and to below 50% in London.” – Ben Goldacre

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      I think that refers to new babies who could be vaccinated. Not all children. A bit ambiguously phrase, I grant you.

  11. monado Says:

    As long as we’re throwing around single cases, I was talking to a woman my age about vaccinations and mentioned that one of my mother’s four siblings (25%) died of a childhood disease that we now routinely immunize against. She responded that only two of her mother’s three brothers (67%) died in childhood ditto. With figures like that from the early 20th century, how can people still argue against protecting ourselves?

  12. monado Says:

    …Assuming that the parents had equal numbers of both sexes, that would make 2 out of 6 (33%) dying.

  13. A Third Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    [...] chances of catching mumps. The WDDTY website also misinterpreted statistics in their attempt to re-animate the MMR zombie. MMR also featured in a Natural News goal-post-shifting effort to defend the discredited quack [...]

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