Meryl undermines her own case again

They're not as smart as they'd like you to think, these antivaxers.

The latest salvo in Meryl Dorey's Twitter War against vaccination:

Polio surge in Nigeria after vaccine virus mutates - Yahoo! News: Polio surge in Nigeria after vaccine virus mut..

Whoah, scary headline. And it's true. A poorly-implemented polio vaccination program in Nigeria does appear to have caused the emergence of some new genetic variants of Polio. This is scary. Surely this means that all vaccinations are suspect now?

Well, no.

You see, Nigeria still uses an old, outdated, live polio vaccine because, basically, it's cheap. Cheap as chips. Trouble is, there are... problems with it.

Turns out that the weakened polio particles get passed through immunized kids, they can find their way into the local water supply, the usual way. Other kids will then pick up those self-same weakened particles and, usually, gain a small level of immunisation.

Here's a very interesting sentence from later in the article though:

But in rare instances, as the virus passes through unimmunized children, it can mutate into a strain dangerous enough to ignite new outbreaks, particularly if immunization rates in the rest of the population are low.

[emphasis mine]

This is a problem inherent in the live vaccine approach to polio in a country with poor sanitation. The germs just keep on coming back, and when they keep coming back they have time to survive and multiply. And when organisms survive and multiply, they evolve. And when unimmunised children come into contact with the newer, tougher germs, well, it's polio time!

Immunologists know this, and that's why here in the rich-ass west, we generally use a safer, inactivated polio vaccine - and when we do use the live vaccine, we have the sanitation infrastructure to ensure it doesn't turn zombie and come back. Problem is, Nigeria can't afford the inactive version. They're using the old, outdated, known-to-be-problematic vaccine. And whaddaya know, they haven't got the plumbing fixed either. There's not a bidet in sight!

So first of all, old technology. But that's not the only item that undermines Meryl's argument. You see, there's a thing called Herd Immunity. AVN supporters are very fond of claiming that Herd Immunity is bunk, and that it's OK for them to leave their kids unimmunised while the "sheeple" can just carry on lining up for jabs, and there'll be no problem.


The actual cause, if you read the article, aside from cheap vaccine and poor sanitation, is incomplete vaccination - exactly what Meryl and her followers seem to want to happen here.

Another quote from Meryl's linked article:

Until a better vaccine is ready, WHO and U.S. CDC officials say the oral vaccine is the best available tool to eradicate polio and that when inoculation rates are nearly 100 percent it works fine.

"Nigeria is almost a case study in what happens when you don't follow the recommendations," Kew said.

So, basically, this entire event can be attributed not to vaccines, but to a combination of:

  • Incomplete vaccination
  • Poor Sanitation
  • National scale poverty
  • Poor implementation

So Meryl has footbulleted again, though if you're an indoctrinated antivaxer, you'll probably miss it as you skimmed the article, as I suspect Meryl did.

I'll close out with this point: The WHO, in conjunction with local and national public health authorities, is on a worldwide mission to eradicate polio entirely. Sadly, this goal is being stymied by lacking political will, by paranoia about vaccines and by poor implementation of programmes in the developing world. Meryl is not helping.


posted @ Tuesday, August 18, 2009 6:39 PM


Comments on this entry:

# re: Meryl undermines her own case again

Left by Jason at 8/18/2009 6:52 PM
Oh bollocks, here's another line from the article I meant to include:

"When Nigerian leaders suspended polio vaccination in 2003, believing the vaccine would sterilize their children and infect them with HIV, Nigeria exported polio to nearly two dozen countries worldwide, making it as far away as Indonesia."

*ahem*. Hellooooo? Meryl??
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