A few months ago, there were more reported cases of measles than you’d see during an entire typical year, says Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
She went on to say during a CDC tele-briefing: “This is not a problem with the measles vaccine not working, this is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.”
So is there a controversy?
The answer is no. It’s a proven fact that vaccinations are safe, and they work.
But there are many parents who have fallen prey to misinformation and, because of that, have decided to disregard the recommendation to vaccinate their children against measles and other contagious diseases. They believe it is their right to make this decision, even if it endangers public health.
This week a new study of close to 100,000 children that found “no harmful association between the receipt of the MMR vaccine and the development of an autism spectrum disorder.”
This came about right after an outbreak of measles, which was traced to Disneyland in December 2014. Health officials documented 131 cases, and determined vaccination status for 81 of those affected.
A brief background on the vaccine:
Before the live measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, there were an average of 549,000 cases a year, and nearly 500 deaths from the disease.
CNN reported that between 1989 and 1991, there was a comeback of the disease, with 55,000 cases and 123 deaths, mostly affecting unvaccinated children. Added to this were cases where people who had the vaccine were also catching the disease.
So in 1989 a two-dose vaccination was recommended. Since this seemed to solve the problem, endemic measles was declared “eliminated” in the US in 2000.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly communicable respiratory disease caused by a virus and spread through the air. It is the most infectious virus known.
Measles is so contagious that 90 percent of the people who are not immune to the disease will become infected if they breathe in or swallow the virus. Even after an infected person leaves the room, the virus can hang around and infect people for a couple of hours since it’s spread from sneezes and coughs.
The risk of death from measles is highest for adults and infants.
Measles starts with a fever, sometimes 104° F and higher. Patients then develop a runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. Three to five days into the sickness, they’ll develop a red rash.
Measles can be transmitted four days before a person develops the rash and as many as four days after the rash has cleared.
Who should be vaccinated?
Adults born in 1957 or later who have not been vaccinated or have not had the measles.
Any child born after 1999 should automatically have been given two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine starting at age 1.
Older teens and young adults who are attending school, entering the military or going into situations where they might be at risk should check their immunization records to make sure they’ve had two doses.
What is the MMR vaccine?
Measles is part of a combination vaccine called MMR that also protects against mumps and rubella. The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective with few side effects.
What happens when you don’t vaccinate?
There is the risk that measles could re-establish itself in the United States.
According to the CDC, people who refuse to vaccinate usually live in the same community. When measles finds its way into these communities, outbreaks are more likely to occur, and controlling the disease becomes harder.
Why is there a debate?
In the scientific community, there is no debate. The measles vaccine works. It is deemed 95 percent to 97 percent effective, yet many parents refuse to use it either because they believe, mistakenly, that it would cause autism or they believe, also mistakenly, that measles is a disease of the past so there is no real need to have their children vaccinated.
What was the vaccine-autism controversy?
In 1998 the British medical journal The Lancet published a research paper by Andrew Wakefield linking the MMR vaccine to autism. This research has been found to be wrong and The Lancet officially retracted this paper in 2010. To date, scientists have found no legitimate link between the measles vaccination and autism.
So most of those who contract measles today, unsurprisingly, are those who are unvaccinated.