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Chapter 37 : Measles, Polio, and Conscience
Adherents believe that the use of vaccines (particularly the measles vaccine) deprives infants of the opportunity to benefit from the experience of having the diseases. The first nationwide outbreak of measles in Great Britain came to light shortly after a 5-year-old boy from Yorkshire, developed measles following a visit to a similar community in north London. Although measles had not been confirmed there by laboratory tests, about 30 of the children showed the typical rash and fever of the disease. A vaccination scandal in Europe, particularly in The Netherlands, concerns poliomyelitis. The World Health Organization (WHO), which in 1988 had proclaimed its hope of ridding the world of polio by 2000, was so appalled by the Dutch incident, where 71 individuals contracted the disease, in which two died and 59 were paralyzed, that it issued a press release pointing out the dangers posed by small pockets of unprotected individuals. It is at least possible that if the Dutch government had adopted the Sabin polio vaccine, some children might well have been unwittingly protected against the disease regardless of parental desires. If parents’ religious or philosophical objections pose a difficult question for medical ethics, so, too, does its logical sequel: that vaccine organisms could be genetically modified specifically to achieve greater dissemination. One laudable aim of such a project might be the need for lower-percentage take-up, compared with a killed vaccine, to achieve an effective level of immunity in the population.