Diphtheria case opens vaccine debate in Spain

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THE first case of diphtheria diagnosed in Spain for 28 years, that of a six-year-old boy who remains in Intensive Care at a Barcelona hospital, has re-opened the debate on whether children’s vaccinations should be obligatory.
As the Cataluña Public Health Agency headed for Olot, in Girona, where the boy went to school, to test and re-vaccinate more than 150 people who may have been in contact with the boy and had not been vaccinated, various specialists have argued on the pros and cons of vaccines.
The fact that the boy’s parents decided not to have him vaccinated has brought to light a new trend of parents refusing the injections, possibly because many diseases including diphtheria were believed to have been eradicated.
Health Minister Alfonso Alonso has warned that people who argue against vaccinating are not backed up by scientific evidence.
The minister insisted that failing to have children vaccinated was an irresponsibility. He said that he hoped that this case would at least help convince parents that they should remember the rights of children come first, including the right to be protected against illness wherever possible.
Barcelona College of Doctors president Jaume Padros also stated that parents who decided not to have their children vaccinated were both irresponsible and uncharitable, as they not only failed to protect their own children but also put the health of the entire community at risk.
Meanwhile the AxV Association complained of a lack of clear and comprehensive information on the contents of vaccines and the health risks they could cause.
Doctor Juan Manuel Marin Olmos, founder of the European Forum for Vaccine Vigilance, said that not all vaccines were necessary and this should be looked into.
But children’s doctors have argued that anti-vaccine movements in Spain should be not be taken too seriously and asked for parents to continue vaccinating their children, as happens in 90 per cent of cases, to avoid risks.
As doctors continue to give the affected boy antitoxins flown in from Moscow, the head of the Catalan Health Service said the risk of contagion was very low for people who have had vaccinations, as most of those who had been in contact with the young boy appear to have done.

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