Monday, 31 May 2010

Vaccination uptake increases in Brighton and Hove despite safety worries of some

· One in five Brightonians think MMR is not safe
· MMR2 vaccine uptake increases to 68% in 2009
· “Opportunistic” vaccination at A & E wards under consideration in Brighton and Hove

More than one in five (22% of people) do not believe MMR vaccination is safe, according to a Brighton and Hove 2009 Citizen’s Panel survey. Despite the safety worries, uptake rates are increasing in a city that has historically resisted vaccination. The information was published in a report compiled by City Council Public Health Specialist Barbara Hardcastle in April 2010. The report said “opportunistic” vaccination at A&E wards was under consideration in Brighton and Hove.

821 people responded to the survey. Of those, 201 had children aged under 18. Of these, 73% said their children had received all the immunisations offered. 6.5% said they had received none of the immunisations offered. 14% said they had received some of the vaccinations offered.

When asked why some or all of the vaccinations had been missed, 22.2% (22 people out of 201) said they “didn’t believe MMR was safe.”

65% felt they had been given enough information about the risks of immunisation, while 81% felt they had been given enough information about the risks of not immunising their child.

The report said MMR uptake had been badly affected by the negative press associated with the now discredited Wakefield paper published in the Lancet in the 1998.

In addition, the report said: “There is also a strong “natural health” movement in Brighton and Hove which is anti-vaccination in general and anti-MMR in particular. “
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Folks who choose natural immunity - Magda Taylor

24 March 2010
 An interview with a mother who decided not to vaccinate her children.

One in four children aren’t fully vaccinated against measles in Brighton and Hove. Last year, the NHS issued warnings of an epidemic. Russell Honeyman asked mother-of-two Magda Taylor why people choose not to vaccinate.

According to Department of Health figures, in December 2009, only 76% of Brighton and Hove’s five-year-olds had received the recommended double dose of MMR vaccine. The national average is 82%. This was after the 2008 ‘catch-up’ campaign to get parents to vaccinate their children. Before that only 65% of the city’s five-year-olds had received the double dose of MMR. The NHS warned of a possible measles epidemic. Last year that seemed to be coming true when 69 people were diagnosed with measles. 56 of them were had no record of vaccination, five had one dose of MMR, one had both doses, and the vaccination status of the others was not known. The outbreak didn’t turn into an epidemic. The total of confirmed cases was 69, though the Brighton and Hove PCT estimated that more cases would not have been reported.

Despite the NHS warnings, mother-of-two Magda Taylor questions whether vaccination is an effective way of preventing disease. Magda, 50, lives in Worthing and edits a magazine and website called Informed Parent, which collates information and press reports about vaccination. She has been interested in alternative choices to vaccination since she read a 1991 article, by Andrew Tyler, in the Evening Standard.

Magda grew up on the outskirts of Harrow, in a house that didn’t have medicines in it. “We didn’t even have aspirin,” Magda said. “This was not the result of a belief in a holistic life. My family dealt with illness in a commonsense way.

“With my own children, Ruby and Nancy, I didn’t have any knowledge; I just wanted to be a good mum. I went along with what the doctor told me to do at first, and so my first child had some vaccinations including the first dose of MMR. Then I read the Standard article in 1991 and my second child didn’t get any MMR jabs.

“I don’t think either of them suffered long term complications from the vaccinations they did have, but when I look back on their growth charts, I can see that one stopped thriving after each vaccination. I don’t know if that was related. The other one developed eczema after the early vaccination, although there is no history of eczema in my family.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Eno appeals for arts funding for the health of our society

24 May 2010. Last night, in the Brighton Dome, Brian Eno appealed to government to fund the arts. Without the arts, ran the subtext of Eno's message, our society can’t develop properly.

Eno started out by explaining that he was addressing the proposed cuts in arts funding by the British government. He noted there are no proposals to cut funding to the Trident nuclear missile programme, and said he was not proud of the fact that Britain is the number two arms producer in the world. He said the arts community is failing to sell itself to government as successfully as the arms industry. The arts community is failing to convince government of the importance of the arts.

Eno said we are at a Darwinian moment – at present the arts are considered to be interesting, but not essential to human development. He compared this attitude to the study of nature before Darwin's theory of evolution changed our idea of the place of humans in the world: we discovered that humans are not isolated, but are connected with all life, part of the same evolutionary chain. Now, says Eno, we are going to realise that the arts are connected with human development and healthy society.

He illustrated his point with an overhead projection of screwdrivers. They all had the same business end. The other end was the stylistic end, in many variations. He showed slides of screwdrivers with curved and straight, spotted and pink, and even be-feathered handles. Hairstyles were another example. On one end of the scale, we might think we don't need to cut our hair, or only need the most utilitarian cut, on the other end we see an infinite variety of styles.

The arts, said Eno, are “anything we don't have to do”. But, in both examples of screwdrivers and hair, we can see that the whole does not work without the stylistic part.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Before and after Eno (or how the Apollo space mission affected human consciousness)

Click for Apollo sample
When I invited a young friend to the performance of Brian Eno’s Apollo that opened the Brighton Festival last night (1 May 2010), I wasn’t tremendously surprised that she didn’t know who Brian Eno is. Despite her tender years, my friend is the veteran of countless surreal, early-morning chilled-out after-parties, so I was more confident of the effect of describing Eno as the father of ambient music. That was enough to get her to the Dome.

Ambient music has become a part of modern life, so fundamental to our experience that it is taken for granted, rather like our modern view of man in space. The lonely, beautiful, ever-changing disc of blue – earth viewed from space – has become a commonplace visual icon in our modern human consciousness, just as ambient electronic music has become an unremarkable strand in the aural texture of our lives. But there was a time before; the time before science became integral to our human essence. Eno’s music is the soundtrack to that transition: before and after science.

My companion came away from the concert dazzled. The performance was like taking the pure essence when you’ve been used to the diluted stuff. She stumbled over herself in her praise for Eno. “He is my new master,” she declared, revealing, I thought, an unconscious yearning for direction.

Eno originally produced Apollo as a soundtrack to Al Reinert’s docu-movie about the moon landings. It was a studio recording using electronic equipment that, in the 1980’s, was both experimental and state of the art. Technology has come a long way since then. As Eno pointed out, in a talk before the performance, the computing power applied to the entire Apollo space mission could be fitted into a modern mobile phone.

Last night, live musicians using acoustic instruments – including guitars, cello, drums, violin, wind, brass and pedal steel guitar – performed the sound track to Apollo. They sat beneath a giant screen projection of the hour-long movie, which was culled from six million hours of film footage shot by Nasa on their moon trips (more...)