When measles kills, we all are at fault. This is what Professor Alberto Mantovani, scientific director of Humanitas and teacher at Humanitas University, said in an editorial on La Stampa.
A few days ago, a kid with leukemia died after getting measles. The little patient was being treated at the San Gerardo hospital in Monza, where Professor Andrea Biondi (friend and colleague of Professor Mantovani) is director of Pediatrics.
The child had an 85% chance of healing from leukemia, but he died because of the complications of measles. Unfortunately, this is not the only case. “It should not happen again”, Professor Mantovani points out. Vaccines are a powerful weapon in the war we are fighting against tragedies like this. This year, there have been 3.000 cases of measles in Italy, and 30% of them required hospitalization.
A shared responsibility
“After this senseless death, the search for a culprit started”, Professor Mantovani says. But whose fault is it? Should we blame anti-vaxxer parents? “It’s bad to point the finger at parents, who should have our compassion”. In the same way, we can’t think the child has been infected by his little siblings, and we can’t blame the doctors. “On the contrary, we should remember how many children they saved in the latest months. More than 180 little patients younger than 12 months, often with a frail health”, the professor says.
Who is the culprit, then? “We should look for more than one culprit. As a community, we all are: in fact, by allowing the vaccination coverage to fall below the safety threshold, we lost the herd immunity (or community immunity) that protected us against the virus and protect non-vaccinated people too. Some of them can’t be vaccinated, like the child who suffered from leukemia”.
Too many lies about vaccines
However, according Professor Mantovani “Someone has a greater responsibility than others”. He is speaking about those people who spread lies about the dangers of vaccines. The link with autism, the feeling of sleepiness after getting a vaccine against the papilloma virus, the nonexistent link between hepatitis-B vaccine and multiple sclerosis. He is also speaking about those who believe these lies, to such an extent that parents are more and more wary of vaccines and some don’t even vaccine their kids. “We should also remember the role of politics and courtrooms in this”.
“I myself, as a proud supporter of vaccines, deem myself responsible: because, if doctors don’t understand the importance of vaccine, this also depends on those who teach in universities (like me). For this reason, during my course at Humanitas University I hold a lesson about the importance and the social responsibility that comes with vaccines, and I also speak about this topic in high schools”, Prof. Mantovani says.
What should we do?
The professor reminds us that vaccines are compulsory according to the law, but he also says that it is important to study and get information. This is true for pediatrics doctors, general practitioners and common people alike. Everyone has to do something. “I believe that, if everyone will do their bit, we will eventually stop this emergence, thus protecting ourselves and those who are weaker than us”, the professor said.