To vaccinate or not to vaccinate

Scepticism growing in Denmark over whether parents should have their children vaccinated

Hollywood often infiltrates Danish entertainment, but now it may be doing so socially as well, as some Danes have begun to question the merits of vaccination.

The debate is particularly fierce in a 2,200-member Facebook group, 'Naturally healthy children. Vaccination and its alternatives. Forum for parents', reports Kristeligt Dagblad.

On the forum, parents share articles that are critical of vaccination and give each other advice on natural remedies and alternative treatments for childhood diseases.

One woman wrote on the forum that it "makes no sense whatsoever to spray poison into a clean body of three months”.

Allan Randrup Thomsen, a professor of experimental virology at the University of Copenhagen, calls such thinking ”hysterical and completely insane”.

”You cannot compare the few side-effects of a measles vaccination with the thousands of infections, cases of brain damage and deaths we saw among children before we started to vaccinate,” he told Kristeligt Dagblad.

Spreading like wildfire
Thomsen believes that these conversations about the harmful effect of vaccination are garnering too much attention among Danes.

Else Jensen, the chairman of Vaccination Forum, a 700-member association critical of vaccination, disagrees.

”The debate is a wild blazing fire and it's good,” she told Kristeligt Dagblad. ”It's a group of especially strong mothers who have dared to take it up. They know what they want and do well to find out information for their children.”

Big impact of small numbers
The Statens Serum Instute (SSI) reports that 86 percent of Danish children born in 2012 were vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella – a rate slightly below that of the last 15 years during which 88-90 percent were vaccinated.

Palle Valentiner-Branth, a senior medical officer at SSI, said that we must take into account a small uncertainty of up to four percent, but if up to 15 percent of a group avoid taking the vaccine then we will have a problem.

”If only a few percent of a group misses the vaccination, then that's how the possibility of contagion increases,” he told Kristeligt Dagblad. ”Those children are growing up and are becoming part of the 'pack', and so we could then see an outbreak of measles.”

Such a case happened last month in Berlin, where 236 cases of measles were reported – a number way in excess of all the measles cases documented in the city in 2014.

”Since the introduction of vaccination for smallpox there were also opponents, but now we have eradicated it,” Valentiner-Branth told Kristeligt Dagblad.

”We are working with the childhood immunisation program, which is challenged by the fact that we actually have so few cases to refer to. If more could remember polio and tetanus, then they would not be so doubtful about whether to vaccinate their children.”