Analysis (April 26, 2019) Unless you have been under a rock, you have heard that we are seeing more cases of measles than we have in years. According to Science News, this is where we stand globally.
”The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks — one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018,” according to a statement released by the CDC April 24. “The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are among the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000. The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States.”
Years of inadequate childhood measles vaccination coverage throughout the world have set the stage for the resurgence in the United States as well as in many other countries. An estimated 169 million children globally were not vaccinated against measles from 2010 to 2017 — or an average of 21.1 million per year, according to data released April 24 by UNICEF to kick off World Immunization Week.
“It is unfortunate where we stand in 2019 on measles control, given the fact that we have such an effective, safe and, very importantly, inexpensive vaccine available,” says Robin Nandy, Chief of Immunization at UNICEF in New York City.
We are to the point of having quarantines declared in Los Angeles and mandatory vaccination in New York. We have not gotten to the point that we can call this an epidemic, but we may yet still see it.
Why are we facing this after the disease was declared eradicated in the United States (and quite a bit of Western Europe) in 2000? Well, ignorance, magical thinking, distrust in authorities and quite frankly lack of historic memory.
There are parents walking today who were vaccinated as children, who refuse to do the same with their children. Their parents did not hesitate because they knew Measles, and other childhood diseases were far from benign. A visit to any old cemetery in the United States, or Europe will drive the point home. And it is easier, quite frankly, than going over reams of data from death certificates. Headstones of small children who died from diseases we can prevent today with a vaccine abound, to about the 1950s Then those numbers did drop. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
In 1912, measles became a nationally notifiable disease in the United States, requiring U.S. healthcare providers and laboratories to report all diagnosed cases. In the first decade of reporting, an average of 6,000 measles-related deaths were reported each year.
In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. It is estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. Also each year, among reported cases, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.
As we have more cases, even with advanced medical care, we will start to see more childhood deaths. We will also see an increase in disabled children. These are quite preventable, but magical thinking is leading parents to not vaccinate. It is, in fact, the height of hubris and self-centered thought.
It is a sign of how pervasive anti-intellectualism and distrust of authorities has spread. Will we get to the point of an epidemic? I can hardly discount it. And perhaps it will take that for people to finally understand why vaccines are good.
Incidentally, when I was a medic in Mexico we never had trouble getting people vaccinated. It is mandatory at the Federal level by the way, and there are campaigns every year to get children vaccinated. Except for those with medical conditions who are immune compromised, such as children receiving chemotherapy, it is required to send children to school. California has made it mandatory and has removed all kinds of exceptions. This is good, but these policies need to go national. Religious exceptions need to go because they are making us drop from herd immunity. This is not a good thing, and as a society, we are preparing the way for an epidemic of diseases that are preventable.
Incidentally, most reported vaccine injuries come from a badly administered shot, which leads to a sore arm. Or simply a sore arm from the injection, which is a side effect.
There are people who no longer call these people anti-vaxxers, but pro-plague. Given that their actions will bring diseases that were on the way to eradication back, it is time. This will reverse long trends in global public health, and it is time to stop coddling them.