Children ‘should have the right to tell doctors to vaccinate them’

Children should be able to get vaccines even if their parents don’t want them to, top doctors in the US have ruled.

The American Medical Association – the country’s largest doctors’ union – this week voted to give ‘mature’ children the power of consent.

Their ruling comes as measles cases in the nation are the highest they’ve been in 17 years with more than 1,000 infections reported in 28 states.

Anti-vaccination sentiment among parents, spread on social media, is being blamed for the spread of the virus which can be stopped by the MMR jab.

'Mature' children should be able to get vaccinated even if their parents don't want them to be, the American Medical Association decided at a meeting this week (stock image)

‘Mature’ children should be able to get vaccinated even if their parents don’t want them to be, the American Medical Association decided at a meeting this week (stock image)

‘Minors who have demonstrated capacity… and who are able to provide informed consent should be able to receive vaccinations regardless of the flawed beliefs of their guardians,’ said Dr Sarp Aksel, an AMA representative in New York, according to MedPage Today.

‘The AMA should remain committed to efforts to increase vaccination rates, and this resolution should support state legislators to establish policies.’

The AMA voted on the measure at its annual meeting in Chicago and said it would encourage state lawmakers to put its policy into law.

According to MSN News, another member of the association, Dr Bobby Mukkamala said: ‘The prevalence of unvaccinated pediatric patients is troubling to physicians.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS OF MEASLES?

Most people will recover from measles within one or two weeks, but sometimes complications can develop.

People most at risk include teenagers and adults, babies younger than age one and children with weakened immune systems.

Common complications include diarrhea and vomiting, middle-ear or eye infections, laryngitis, fits caused by a fever, and lung infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis and croup.

About one in every 15 infected children will develop one of these. 

Less common complications include hepatitis, meningitis and a brain infection called encephalitis.

Rare complications include serious eye disorders which can lead to vision loss, heart and nervous system problems, and a fatal brain infection called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis – this is very rare and only happens in one in every 25,000 cases.

Having measles during pregnancy increases the risk of the baby having a low birth weight, premature birth, or stillbirth or miscarriage.

Source: NHS Choices 

‘Many children go unvaccinated as anti-vaccine-related messages and advertisements target parents with misinformation.

‘Allowing mature minors to provide informed consent to vaccinations will ensure these patients can access this type of preventive care.’

As of Monday, June 10, 1,022 cases of measles had been diagnosed in the US in 2019, making this the worst year for the virus since 1992, which saw 2,126.

The US is on track to lose its official ‘elimination’ status which is given to countries by the World Health Organization when an infection is no longer common there.

AMA members recognised parental resistance as an issue in trying to vaccinate children.

But they also said giving children the power to decide may lead to them turning down vaccines which their parents want them to have.

And deciding who qualifies as a ‘mature’ child is a ‘fuzzy’ area, one admitted, with concerns it may only be applied to those aged 16 and over.

Parents would also still have to pay for the vaccinations and the change could risk ‘chipping away at parental rights’, added Dr Kevin Reilly from the Radiological Society of North America.

Worldwide, the number of measles cases in the first quarter of 2019 were four times higher than during the same period last year.

The World Health Organization has warned slipping vaccination rates are partly to blame, and Ukraine, Brazil and the Philippines have experienced huge increases.

IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?

Andrew Wakefield's discredited autism research has long been blamed for a drop in measles vaccination rates

Andrew Wakefield’s discredited autism research has long been blamed for a drop in measles vaccination rates

In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.

He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.

After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’

At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.

Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004, the editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by a group pursuing lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.

The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.

Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practising medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.

On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.

At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.

Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.

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