Measles – the Outbreak and the Outrage

Written by Jill Chapin. Posted in Healthcare, Opinion

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Published on February 21, 2015 with 11 Comments


By Jill Chapin

February 21, 2015

Although my family and I are fully vaccinated, I am baffled by the vindictive vitriol being hurled at parents who choose to forgo vaccinations. It’s curious why Americans feel so threatened when the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System reveals no deaths here from measles in more than ten years; however, there were at least 108 deaths linked to the measles vaccine.

Regarding concerns about children with a weakened immunity coming into contact with the unvaccinated, there is something more worrisome: Measles can be spread by the shedding of the live virus from the recently vaccinated. The National Vaccine Information Center recently published a document showing evidence that the MMR vaccine can lead to measles infection and transmission.

We assume most of us trust vaccines, but astonishing numbers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year revealed that over half of Americans believe doctors and our government promote childhood vaccines even though they are either certain or undecided as to whether they can be harmful. This silent majority are afraid to voice their concerns out of fear that they will be marginalized by even those whom they love and admire.

They might gain confidence to speak if they knew of a recent study published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics warning that the pharmaceutical industry has corrupted the practice of medicine through its influence over what drugs are developed and how they are tested. With commercial influence compromising Congressional legislation to protect the public from unsafe drugs, Harvard scientists warned that the U.S. is facing an epidemic of side effects caused by corruption.

When people resort to vilifying slurs towards those they label as anti-vaxers, it serves only to shut down constructive discussion, as happened to Katie Couric on her HPV Gardasil vaccine show. The persecution of her became so intense that she backtracked, issuing a public apology for simply presenting both sides of the story. Guest Dr. Diane Harper, a University of Louisville professor and international HPV vaccine expert, admitted on the air that Gardasil doesn’t last long enough to prevent cervical cancer, and that there are some harms associated with it.

Cozy relationships between networks and their pharmaceutical advertisers would follow that drug companies don’t want this kind of admission broadcast to their customers. Scarier than a case of measles is an Orwellian erosion of our freedom to speak openly, constrained by those who want to silence opposing views.

The driving force behind those who question the safety and efficacy of the measles vaccine is neither religion nor philosophy, but information that is out there, albeit buried deep so most of us don’t even know where or how to find it. Far from casting these people as irresponsible, we should use their skepticism to further inform ourselves.

You can do some personal research on your own. Get a blood test for your fully vaccinated older children to see if they still have the antibodies to the measles that will provide them with the protection they need.

Maybe they don’t, which is why many of those who contracted measles in California last year had been vaccinated. Public health doctors explain the leaks in measles vaccine immunity, admitting that sometimes the immunity wears off. Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA pediatrician and infectious disease expert proposed giving additional doses of MMR to adults. Imagine how pleased Merck’s stockholders would be with his suggestion.

In fact, drug companies are quite pleased with the number of vaccines given to our children. The CDC reported in 2009 that five nations with some of the lowest Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) required only 12 vaccines; the U.S. required 26 (now 48), the world’s highest. You might assume that we would therefore have one of the lowest IMR, but that is not so.

There have certainly been wildly successful results with UNICEF and WHO providing support to measles control in 45 countries from Afghanistan to Zambia where mortality fell drastically. But keep very much in mind that the U.S. is not a third world country. When people are already compromised with serious life-threatening effects of poor nutrition, sanitation and inadequate health care, it’s understandable how their already weakened bodies could succumb to measles.

Well-nourished children recover from infectious disease and rarely suffer complications. But for a bad case of measles, the CDC and the New England Journal of Medicine suggest vitamin A for decreasing its severity. Wouldn’t it be newsworthy to hear TV doctors tamp down the hysteria by passing along this useful information?

Summarily and rudely brushing aside those who offer intelligent counterpoints to this measles discussion reminds me of an old saying:

Methinks thou doth protest too much.

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin has been a guest writer and columnist in several Los Angeles area papers for over fifteen years. She has written a bilingual parenting book titled, "If You Have Kids, Then Be a Parent!" and a children's book entitled, "My Magic Bubble."

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