Measles: Guard against complacency

PHOTO: Measles: Guard against complacency

I was saddened to read about how some parents in Vietnam were taken in by baseless claims about vaccination side effects, leaving their children uninoculated and vulnerable to the potentially deadly measles infection ("Measles outbreak kills over 100 in Vietnam"; last Saturday).

An outbreak of the magnitude seen in Vietnam is not impossible in Singapore, though it is unlikely because of our higher vaccination rate and, thus, stronger herd immunity against the measles virus.

However, there is no room for complacency.

We are a small city-state where people live very close to one another. This will aid the spread of the virus.

We are also a very cosmopolitan nation. We have tens of thousands of overseas visitors daily, increasing the chances of the virus being imported into our country.

There may also be uninoculated foreigners living, studying and working here.

As with all information on the Internet, it is not possible to totally remove baseless claims about the side effects of vaccinations.

We are a highly wired nation and our population is very Internet-savvy. Sadly, there are those among us who are buying into these claims.

Measles may seem like an innocuous infection with few consequences. However, its complications, such as pneumonia, encephalitis and permanent ear damage caused by ear infections, are very devastating. And if a pregnant woman contracts measles, her baby runs the risk of having cardiac malformations.

Measles vaccination is effective. According to the World Health Organisation, measles vaccination has resulted in a 78 per cent drop in deaths between 2000 and 2012 worldwide.

Let us not become complacent and fall prey to fraudulent claims found on the Internet. We can start by checking our children's health records to make sure their vaccinations are updated.

Letter from Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

This article was published on April 22 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.