PoliomyelitisW (polio) is an infectious disease which can cause paralysis and death. In the past, outbreaks have seen thousands paralysed or killed. Images of wards full of positive pressure ventilators – iron lungs – are a vivid testament to the seriousness of this disease. In the 1950s a vaccine was developed. Intense political pressure led to this being released before the processes were fully standardised, leading in turn to the “Cutter incidentW”, probably the worst vaccine damage incident ever. 120,000 inadequately inactivated doses were released, leading to 169 cases of paralysis and 10 deaths. For comparison, the 1952 polio epidemic had nearly 58,000 cases leading to 21,269 cases of paralysis and 3,145 deaths.
Polio has no natural non-primate reservoir. Like smallpoxW, it is eradicable. A determined effort beginning in 1988 has seen incidence reduce by 99% and the number of countries with endemic polio drop form 125 to just three, but every population in the world is still at risk until the disease is eradicated. The biggest threat to this effort is from anti-vaccinationists and the lies they propagate.
WDDTY is, to quote Ben GoldacreW, “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine“, even to the point of inventing deaths from a non-existent vaccine, so it’s no surprise that they are at the forefront of the campaign to keep polio alive.
The tools of the anti-vaccinationist are the staples of so much propaganda: Fear, Uncertainty and DoubtW (FUD).
Fear: Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
Few things give WDDTY more pleasure than portentous statements about risk, especially when they don’t have to quantify the relative risk of disease versus vaccine.