In Romania measles affected over 10 thousand people and killed 36 last year alone, according to official statistics made public recently.
In Romania measles affected over 10 thousand people and killed 36 last year alone, according to official statistics made public recently. The measles epidemic continues into 2018 as well. Heated debates took place in Romania in previous years on whether the immunization of children should be mandatory or not. A bill instating the obligation to vaccinate children was passed by the Government last year, and scheduled for endorsement in Parliament. The fact that 9,688 measles cases of the over 10,000 were reported in people who had not been vaccinated against measles, did nothing but fuel polemics. Most medical doctors and representatives of the medical system are in favor of the anti-measles vaccine becoming mandatory, unlike a part of the civil society and parents.
Doctor Sandra Alexiu, vice president of the National Society of Family Medicine explains: “In Romania, unlike other types of vaccines that we were short of, the one against measles, wich is included into the MMR vaccine, to also cover mumps, and rubella, has always been available. The conclusion is, at least from our data, that it is natural to link the epidemic to vaccine refusal. Moreover, we can also explain the re-emergence of measles through the lack of trust in the Romanian medical system from parents and patients in general. The system has failed big time a number of times, it is now going through a crisis and one of the elements that caused the people’s lack of trust is precisely the lack of vaccines, which have not been supplied on time. And I’m talking about vaccines against other types of diseases, which resulted in little trust in the effectiveness of vaccination in general, which has also been fuelled by anti-vaccination campaigns that are international, not only local.”
On the other hand, people who support the right to refuse vaccination, insist on their right to choose freely. It is the case of Lion Mentor Association, whose president, Irina Thiery, explains her stand and the stand of the people she represents: “Lion Mentor is not against immunization. We live in country governed by the rule of law, where, in our opinion, vaccination is a choice. Therefore, we respect the citizens who choose to assume the risks of vaccination, but we are firmly and irrevocably against it being mandatory. Vaccination is a preventive medical act, not a therapeutic one, and must be done following medical tests, either routine or more advanced ones. To minimize risks, check-ups must include genetic, allergy, neurological and immune system testing. It is only this type of testing that could prevent, to a certain degree, some adverse effects such as allergies, paralysis, sudden death and epilepsy.”
All these adverse effects are included in the instructions on label of each vaccine and their emergence depends on he patient. Sandra Alexiu: “The most common adverse reactions are mild, and are local reactions found in many adults and children, such as redness or stiffness where the shot was given, or mild fever. These reactions are included in the vaccine’s instructions. But there are also more serious adverse effects. These effects must be compared to the importance of vaccination and the fact that it is a means to prevent other diseases that cannot be treated, but only prevented through vaccination. For instance, out of 100 unvaccinated children, 1 can have measles-induced encephalitis, and risks dying because of the seriousness of this condition. On the other hand, if we refer to post-vaccination reactions, 1 in 1 million immunised children can develop post-vaccination encephalitis, but there are no cases of death after the anti-measles vaccine.“
It is precisely these types of statistics that anti-vaccination campaigners are questioning: “These adverse reactions can occur in 1 patient out of 10, or, if we refer to the less frequent ones, in 1 patient out of 100,000. The one in a million situation, as vaccine advertisements say, is not true. In Romania, medical doctors are not instructed to report adverse reaction cases. For instance, three counties have not reported any case of adverse reactions in the past three years, which we believe is not true.”
In this context, official statistics on measles epidemic are also regarded with scepticism. Irina Thiery: “There are not single-diagnosis protocols in Romania. It means that a registered and reported measles case is not necessarily a real measles case. Similar symptoms can lead to different diagnoses. So the Health Ministry cannot support the number of cases reported officially with concrete and undeniable medical documents. An analysis into a number of deaths reported by the National Medicines Agency as having been caused by measles is intriguing, as measles is reported as the cause of death in only 10 of the 36 deaths. In the other cases, measles is only an additional factor, alongside other conditions and pre-existent diseases.”
Given that in the case of contagious diseases prevention and outbreak is not only an individual matter, but also a social one, we asked several parents to tell us their opinion on vaccination: “I am in favor of vaccination. If other parents believe vaccines are harmful, they have the right to raise their children according to their own philosophy. If I weren’t convinced of the advantages of immunization, I would not care if the whole country believed the opposite.”
Another parent has said: “I’m the mother of a 8-year old girl and she got all vaccines recommended to children. I respect the opinion of parents who choose not to immunize their children, but I cannot agree with it as long as all doctors recommend vaccination.”
As for the way in which society is affected by the proliferation of contagious diseases possibly triggered by the refusal of immunization and given the prospect of vaccines becoming mandatory, another parent has said: “Children also have rights and when parents are wrong somebody has to step in. That is why I believe this law is necessary.”
At present, the bill providing for the compulsory vaccination of children is in the Chamber of Deputies, pending debate.