openDemocracy or Measles Conspiracy

openDemocracy or Measles Conspiracy

Article Contributed to TLB Project by Author: Dr. Mike Williams

A recent article by Lucia Medori for openDemocracy entitled Dangers of vaccine hesitancy: where does the EU stand? details measles outbreaks and vaccine hesitancy. It informs us that:

While the World Health Organisation warns of major measles outbreaks spreading across Europe, vaccination has stepped into national and EU political debate as a major health issue…

[In Italy] [t]he Democratic Party and Forza Italia political parties champion the so-called ‘Lorenzin Law’ [a new law requiring 10 mandatory vaccinations for pre-school and school children] while the right-wing Northern League and the 5 Star Movement call for immunizations to be left to parents’ discretion, regardless of WHO warnings on measles outbreaks.

It highlights the French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe in raising concern over deaths from measles that it assumes are vaccine preventable, and singles out the drop in vaccine coverage as a cause of the failure to deal with the “epidemic”.

In the author’s opinion, not only are “Right Wing” political parties to blame for this but also adds:

The fall in public confidence in vaccines has become more and more of a challenge which has contributed to low rates of immunisation against the rise of highly contagious disease across Europe. Media controversies, some political propaganda and the spread of fake news (from big pharma conspiracy to autism) have fuelled a dangerous mistrust of vaccines.

In answering its own question whether “the EU wants to play a role on this issue?” it quotes Mr Juncker the EU president (regarding the measles outbreaks in Italy and Romania):

It is unacceptable that in 2017 there are still children dying of diseases that should long have been eradicated in Europe (…) This is why we are working with all Member States to support national vaccination efforts. Avoidable deaths must not occur in Europe”

What should the EU do?

EU incentives and best practice sharing could tackle vaccine hesitancy, especially in the frame of the increasing impact of digitalization (e.g. countering fake news messages on social media, promoting aware-raising campaigns). Also, it is likely that better aligned vaccine schedules can help to increase trust and confidence in immunisation programmes.

Medori warns us that infections such as measles are a significant threat to the EU and that countries cannot act alone as this is a cross border issue. And those promoting doubt over the efficacy and safety of vaccines, by implication, constitute a “shared European threat”…. And “put at risk human health by causing resurgence of infectious diseases long since considered under control”.

It qualifies the above by stating that there was a 4-fold increase in measles in 2017 compared to 2016. And that: “Thanks to vaccines, smallpox, polio and many other fatal diseases have been eradicated”.

Let’s quickly summarise the article’s main points:

  1. Be afraid because there are measles epidemics across Europe.
  2. Democratic parties are good because they promote mandatory vaccination; Right Wing parties oppose vaccination and are bad.
  3. Fall in vaccine coverage is to blame for the epidemic and preventable deaths.
  4. That is due to fake news (and Right Wing parties), which should be countered (aka censored?) on social media.
  5. All countries must adopt a cross border solution eg make sure everybody gets vaccinated.
  6. Lack of vaccination caused a 4-fold increase in measles cases in 2017 compared to 2016.
  7. Vaccines are great because they eradicated smallpox.

Give or take, I think that about sums it up.

I’ll start with point 2 and cover the first point later.

Democratic parties are good because they promote mandatory vaccination; Right Wing parties oppose vaccination and are bad. Overwhelmingly, the demographic that questions vaccine safety and efficacy is well educated, open minded and liberal leaning. Therefore, this is a thinly veiled attempt to align any opinion that does not agree with the author’s and openDemocracy’s opinion, with Right Wing extremism. That is a common tactic that allows the use of censorship, both functional and actual, to silence any voice that questions authority. Have a look at all the “Right Wing” mums, dads and their children as they demonstrated against the mandatory vaccination laws in Italy. The only Right Wing thing about this is, you never got to see it on the news…..hmmm, I wonder why?

Is the fall in vaccine coverage to blame for the measles epidemic and preventable deaths?

A detailed analysis is beyond this article but let’s give you some highlights that openDemocracy left out and use the country that was most blamed for the measles outbreaks – Romania:

  • One in four Romanians do not have adequate access to medical care due to doctor shortages caused by the exodus of doctors since Romania entered the EU;
  • One in five pregnant women have no antenatal care.
  • Many people are malnourished with deficiencies in vitamins A, C, and E. A lack of vitamin A is known to cause severe complications of measles.
  • Only 10 of the 46 measles deaths for 2016-2018 were listed as measles on death certificates – causes included pneumonia, anaemia and multi-organ failure – late effects of measles that may not have occurred if they were not malnourished.
  • A sewage system and clean water is not available in most rural areas of the country.
  • Only 11% of the rural population have a sewage system in their homes and the majority get their water from wells.
  • The water isn’t treated and contains bacteria and pesticides. That depletes the already compromised immune systems of malnourished people.
  • Romanian mothers also have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe, at only 12.6%. Formula-fed babies are at greater risk of infections like measles and pneumonia. They are more likely to succumb to infection.

I hear openDemocracy say: All the above may be well and good but the fall in vaccine coverage is of course due to fake news (and Right Wing parties), which should be countered (aka censored) on social media. And, of course all countries must adopt a cross border solution eg make sure everybody gets vaccinated. For crying out loud, don’t you know there was a 4-fold increase in measles cases in 2017 compared to 2016? You should be afraid [very afraid] because there are measles epidemics across Europe!

To quote David Gates (of Bread—a band from the ‘70s), If a picture says a 1000 words:


But surely if 95% were vaccinated, then we wouldn’t get outbreaks?

Firstly: standard epidemiology has known for a very long time that measles is endemic in large populations and has natural cycles of infection.


Because of the natural cycles of measles, we can have high numbers of measles cases with high vaccine coverage and low numbers of cases with low vaccine coverage and vice versa.

You can’t eradicate it; it’s endemic. Even if you ignored basic epidemiological science and direct evidence in the graph above, and religiously aimed for 95 – 100% vaccination coverage, you’d still fail. Primary (failure of the vaccinated host to mount a sufficient antibody response) and secondary (waning of antibody response over time) vaccine failure prevent high percentages of vaccine coverage. Not mentioning that those vaccinated can also become infected and spread the disease!

I’ll leave the final say to the world’s expert in vaccine science and measles, Dr Poland;

We found 18 reports of measles outbreaks in very highly-immunized school populations where 71% to 99.8% of students were immunized against measles. Despite these high rates of immunization, 30% to 100% (mean, 77%) of all measles cases in these outbreaks occurred in previously immunized students. In our hypothetical school model, after more than 95% of schoolchildren are immunized against measles, the majority of measles cases occur in appropriately immunized children… The apparent paradox is that as measles immunization rates rise to high levels in a population, measles becomes a disease of immunized persons.

One last quote before we go, dealing with the author’s claim that vaccination stopped smallpox etc. From Dr Thomas Mack, the world’s leading expert on smallpox:

If people are worried about endemic smallpox, it disappeared from this country not because of our mass herd immunity. It disappeared because of our economic development. And that’s why it disappeared from Europe and many other countries, and it will not be sustained here, even if there were several importations, I’m sure. It’s not from universal vaccination.

The sad fact is, if we listen to authors that promote opinion over fact, especially where health is concerned, then lives really will be put at risk. The people of Europe and the rest of the world deserve honest science, not an agenda dressed up as science, if they are to be protected from infectious disease.

And, of course, the uncomfortable question has to be asked: does openDemocracy or anyone connected to it potentially benefit from this article? That’s a fair question, right? If anyone linked to openDemocracy had shares in a vaccine company or a history of investing in vaccine companies, for example, especially one that manufactured respiratory vaccines, would they benefit from more increased or compulsory vaccination? Remember, a tide raises all boats. Would that bias the article? A cursory look at their donors raises such a question: their main donor’s Fund Management LLC has invested (2016) in a respiratory vaccine company. Should that be declared? Who is that donor? I think you might know his name – George Soros. Nothing to worry about, probably a coincidence, right?

openDemocracy and Lucia Medori – promoting facts and defending against fake news? I’ll let you be the judge of that.


openDemocracy; CISID; EFVV; G. A. Poland, Failure to reach the goal of measles elimination: Apparent paradox of measles infections in immunized persons; ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON IMMUNIZATION PRACTICES Atlanta Marriott Century Center 2002; The Motley Fool.


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