A huge story is breaking today, about what the Washington Post is calling “the largest resurgence” of measles since 2001.
This story should, by itself, put this myth to rest.
And, the story is unfolding in 10 states, with at least 72 people ranging from infants to the elderly becoming ill. And all but one of them were unvaccinated.
In the 2001 outbreak, there were 116 cases and, once again, most of the cases were in unvaccinated people.
Prior to 2001, the last major U.S. outbreak occurred from 1989 to 1991, when 55,000 people got measles and 123 died.
But that’s small potatoes compared to the numbers of measles cases and deaths before the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1963. Back then, according to the LA Times,in each year, more than 500,000 (half a million) people got measles in the United States and 500 died (each year).
Thanks to the MMR vaccine, measles is rare in the United States. But, according to CDC experts, “The U.S. outbreaks have primarily affected people not vaccinated against the disease. Recently, some parents have been concerned that vaccines – such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine – can cause autism or other diseases, and have decided against vaccination for their children. This trend has left children vulnerable to diseases that had virtually disappeared in the United States.”
In addition, since most parents today have never seen a case of measles, mumps, German measles, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, or whooping cough, it’s understandable that some would question the continued need for vaccines.
Even if the incidence of disease is low, there are still three important reasons for immunizations:
• Some diseases (such as chicken pox) are still so prevalent in this country that a decision not to be immunized is tantamount to a decision to get this disease.
• Some diseases (such as measles, mumps, German measles, and pertussis) continue to occur, but at fairly low levels. If immunization rates drop, outbreaks of these diseases will again occur, and children will die. Today’s news stories are an excellent example of this.
• Some diseases (such as polio and diphtheria) have been virtually eliminated from this country, but outbreaks of these diseases still occur in other countries. Given the high rate of international travel, travelers and immigrants could easily import these diseases (as they did with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS] in 2003 and measles in 2008).
You can read more about vaccine myths in my book God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Child.
RHere are other blogs in this series you might find useful: