Between them, Europeans recognise whooping cough only as a nuisance

With less than a month to go until the end of the EU’s life-or-death campaign to prevent the spread of whooping cough, vaccinated European communities are caught in a bitter maelstrom between the “vaccination homeless” who are shunning vaccinations and “vaccine naivete” who refuse to believe the disease exists at all.

Traditionally “vaccination homeless”, as they are known, have responded to the sudden outbreak of whooping cough by seeking out sources of immunity, not just taking advantage of the immunisation vans that go door-to-door in many European countries, but also going to doctor’s surgeries, school nurses and community health centres.

This is all provided that there is someone else in the house who is being vaccinated. This applies even if there are unvaccinated adults in the household. So a group of Europeans in Amsterdam, Amsterdam and Antwerp can go to a clinic and get their three-month booster shots of both the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the tetanus booster at the same time.

However, in the “vaccine naivety” camp, the vaccination is seen to be a pointless farce that leads to much-higher death rates because it does not work. In his book Every Living Thing, about the history of the collation of data on diseases that ultimately became measles, professor Craig Cutmore, director of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the University of Adelaide, compares it to the “shotgun approach” in abortion.

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“If you want to prevent a fatal disease, get all the young babies immunised with both the first and second doses of measles vaccine before they are five months old,” he says. “This is the most powerful and efficient control strategy for both preventing and treating measles. Instead, we muddle through.”

When the EU campaign ends next month, the number of people exposed to the disease that caused one death in England and Wales last year and 1,000 in France will be counted. The phase-out of the disease is also being followed in France and Spain, but the Netherlands and Belgium are “closing down” as they not only stop immunising those who have done so, but they also refuse to immunise people who are exposed.

In Belgium, reports from the French colony of Wallonia state there have gone from 11,463 cases in 2017 to 508 this year. One of the infants born to the Wallonia women suffering from the disease now has seizures that can last hours, French maternity units report.

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