As a long-standing GP, I consider one of the scourges of modern society is “anti-immunisation fever”, a virulent strain of misinformation that can spread rapidly over the internet. Anti-immunisation fever takes several forms, but commonly involves parents refusing to let their children be vaccinated against things like polio, measles, mumps, and rubella.
Anti-immunisation fever was unknown 50 years ago – if a parent looked like wavering about vaccinating their child even after being shown pictures of children with withered legs from polio, the nurse would slap them in the face, and then jab the child regardless. Of course there was the odd weirdo from religious minorities who insisted on not vaccinating, but we dealt with them by the traditional means of ostracising them and poking them with sticks.
But nowadays, it just takes the simple Google search “will vaccination harm my kids?” to generate a potentially lethal dose of anti-immunisation fever. Once a parent has worked through hits relating to “Autism”, “Asperger’s”, “growing a second head”, and “Manchester City supporter”, the fever can become so bad they find themselves unable to function beyond inhabiting anti-vaccine forums and sharing photos of queer-looking children on Facebook.
Unfortunately, anti-immunisation fever is one of the few medical conditions I know that is resistant to my customary two aspirin remedy – sometimes it takes such a hold that a 5 year course of study in medical science is needed to alleviate the symptoms of wide-eyed credulousness.
I’m a firm fan of “prevention is better than the cure”, so I believe the best way to combat the anti-immunisation fever menace is to vaccinate children against it when they are young. The vaccine I administer is a straightforward cocktail of pictures of sick children who haven’t been vaccinated plus a small, permanent tattoo on the back of the child’s hand saying “just because it is on the internet, doesn’t mean it is true”.
Of course some parents have been a little reluctant to let me administer the anti-immunisation fever vaccine, but I overcome this by suggesting they Google “will the anti-immunisation fever vaccine harm my kids?”. Of course they get no hits, and are then quite happy for their child to be vaccinated.
I daren’t tell them that some of the children I have vaccinated against anti-immunisation fever seem to have developed mild to moderate symptoms of autism.