EDZARD ERNST: World-renowned expert on alternative medicine warns anti-vaxx nonsense risks fuelling measles crisis

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Professor Edzard Ernst, chair of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter

A few years ago, we were celebrating the fact that measles had been all but eradicated. Sadly, we had rejoiced too soon. 

In 2022, 9million people worldwide contracted the virus and 136,000 died from it, mainly children. There were measles outbreaks in 37 countries last year.

In the UK, the number of measles infections have almost tripled in the last week: 314 suspected cases in England and Wales, up from 129 infections the previous week. 

The number so far this year is about 600, more that 10 times the number of the same period in 2023. 

The Department of Health urges that immediate action must be taken to ensure that all children get immunised.

Due to the high infectivity of the measles virus, at least 95 per cent of the population must be immunised to ensure herd immunity. 

However, the immunisation rate in the UK currently stands at just 85 per cent. 

The reasons for the widespread vaccination fatigue are certainly complex. 

One that is often neglected is the fact that many alternative practitioners advise against vaccinations.

The graph shows the dramatic increase in measles cases across England since October 1, which has been mainly driven by cases in Birmingham

The graph shows the dramatic increase in measles cases across England since October 1, which has been mainly driven by cases in Birmingham

A recent review found that vaccine hesitancy is mainly due to concerns about vaccine safety, effectiveness, perception of measles risk and burden, and mistrust in experts.

Alternative practitioners like to play on such fears. They tend to exaggerate the risks of vaccinations and question their effectiveness. 

Many even claim that vaccinations are a conspiracy to enrich the much-hated pharmaceutical industry. 

The reason for alternative practitioners’ negative stance is simple. Already during their training, they are misinformed that their therapy can replace all vaccinations in a holistic and completely natural way. 

Many homeopaths, for example, offer their very own – but totally ineffective – form of vaccination called ‘homeoprophylaxis’.

The UK Society of Homeopaths claims that its members must not ‘provide advice on, or participate in a patient’s decisions regarding vaccination’. 

However, it merely takes seconds to find UK practitioners offering homeoprophylaxis. 

Only a few years ago, Ainsworth, the London-based homeopathic pharmacy, was criticised for selling homeopathic remedies against measles, and ‘Dr. Reckeweg R62 Measles Drops’ are readily available on the Internet.

Measles is highly contagious and can lead to serious complications, including deaths. 

In my view, it is far too serious a disease to tolerate charlatans meddling with it.

  • Professor Edzard Ernst is a world-renowned researcher in complementary medicine, founder of three medical journals, and emeritus professor at the University of Exeter 
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