Vaccines are among the most proactive of health interventions, with children being protected against viruses they might one day encounter. Yet every now and then vaccination campaigns are forced to be reactive. And this can be difficult, as the measles outbreak in Wales is showing.
Since FierceVaccines reported on the outbreak last month, the spread of the virus has continued to accelerate. There have been almost 700 cases so far and--with the anticipated peak still four weeks away--health officials warn the number affected easily could double. The unwillingness of some to vaccinate against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) has hindered efforts to contain the outbreak. MMR vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Sanofi ($SNY) are available, but still more than 40,000 kids in Wales are believed to lack immunity.
In an effort to bring this number down, health authorities are opening up more vaccine drop-in clinics. The clinics were initially limited to the epicenter of the outbreak, Swansea, but are now opening up across south Wales, including in the capital Cardiff. On Saturday more than 1,300 people were given the MMR vaccine. The figure marks a jump on the vaccination levels seen when drop-in clinics were limited to Swansea. And comes at an important time given fears the outbreak will spread beyond the city. "Nowhere in Wales is safe from measles and I think that is true of the [United Kingdom] as a whole," Public Health Wales' Meirion Evans told the BBC.
Evans and others have kept stating the importance of vaccinations, but the anti-MMR lobby has also been stirred by the outbreak. Despite multiple studies finding no link between MMR and autism, the Independent splashed comments by Andrew Wakefield on its front page. Wakefield co-authored the discredited Lancet paper linking MMR to autism. After a two-year review that found Wakefield's actions were "dishonest and irresponsible" he was stuck off by the General Medical Council in the United Kingdom. The Independent has been widely criticized for giving a platform to Wakefield, especially at a time when it is particularly important to increase the MMR vaccination rate.