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Lack of proper vaccination info triggers epidemic

Jul. 03, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

It's been years since discredited London doctor Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license after claiming children were harmed by the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine. If you recall, a reporter for the Sunday Times of London discovered the doc was on the take from a personal injury lawyer and had trumped up a study to collect damages from a vaccine manufacturer.

Since then, there's been good news and not-so-good news about vaccinations and peoples' fear of side effects.

The good news? In Australia, there's been a significant decline in the incidence of genital warts since the country initiated an HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination program. From 2007 through 2011, there was a 93 percent reduction in the incidence of genital warts in girls younger than 21 and a 73 percent reduction for those 21-30, compared with the number of reported cases before the vaccine effort. That will mean lives saved and cancers avoided; HPV causes almost all cervical cancer.

The not-so-great news? In South Wales, where the MMR vaccine isn't mandatory, they're having a measles epidemic; lingering suspicion about this vaccine has triggered pain and suffering.

The silver lining? People are experiencing firsthand that skipping a time-tested vaccine is about 4,000 times worse than any possible health risk it may pose. We'd rather people learn how great vaccines are through the positive results like Australia's rather than through the misery of kids in Wales. But if that heartbreak convinces parents to vaccinate their children, that's at least some benefit from this poor choice.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com.

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