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 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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Comments for Measles – the Outbreak and the Outrage are now closed.

  1. It is interesting how some people can twist the truth. After checking on Jill’s sources it is obvious she’s got it basically RIGHT, and the Snopes quoter has twisted certain errors into a full fledged condemnation of what is an excellent and wise examination of the issue. And anybody who has used Snopes extensively as I have knows that Snopes has their own agenda, namely to condemn anything that is fringe, unorthodox and cutting edge if it doesn’t fit their version of logic. Thank you Jill for writing on such a volatile and contentious subject, that takes courage and a dedication to truth so rare these days.

  2. Jill, you’re just cutting and pasting an urban legend that’s already been debunked:

    NVIC is also not a credible source; they’re an anti-vaccine advocacy group.

    • I called the CDC, so if you disagree
      with their numbers, bring it up with them. I was not referring to worldwide measles fatalities, but rather only the U.S.
      And to say the NVIC is not a credible source because they are anti-vaccine is odd – of course they will report truths that pro-vaccine lobbyists would rather not reveal who are counting on the general public to discredit those who disagree. It makes it easier for them to say that two and two are five:-)

  3. Ms Chapin presents a well-documented, informative position – worth considering. We live in a country dominated by the 1%’ers, and the pharmaceutical giants have enormous influence over their … customers, including doctors, like it or not. Unfortunately wacko Jenny McCarthy caused crazy hysteria with her claims about autism, which no doubt makes many people hesitant to believe anything any more about measles.

  4. Regarding comments on America not being a third world country, as we have both running water and electricity. Please remember in the last 10 years that we have seen cases where entire cities have been devoid of power and running water for weeks. Both New Jersey with Superstorm Sandy and Louisiana with Hurricane Katrina created situations where the United States was run as you described “a third world country”. Measles is not a third world disease. It is a universal disease of humans. We are the only carriers and we are the only reservoirs. The connectivity of the world makes it exceptionally easy for the wealthy and affluent to pick up this disease and spread it around the world in 1 night. Remember, the episode happened in Disneyland, not some run down backwater as you seem to believe. The truth is if you keep promoting that the disease does not kill and someday a child dies, then you need to take a cold hard look at yourself and your role in the process. Ask a mother in India about her child dying of encephalitis and the role that the vaccines took to prevent that death before you promote your ideas. Look her in the eyes and tell her that no one in America has to fear death from measles and say the same thing that you are suggesting now. And if you don’t think that running water will be an issue in California, drop by the Porterville area this summer. They were using bottled water to flush their toilets last summer.

    • For non-Californians, should also explain that bottled water is not a privilege. The drought was so severe that Porterville’s water supply ran out in the summer. As California is entering the 4th year of the drought, expect more cities to become “third world” as Jill suggests in the comments.section.

  5. Except you are wrong – at least 10 measles deaths have been confirmed over the past decade….and a baby just died in Berlin, Germany, due to Measles.

    And there has never been a confirmed case of someone getting infected from “MMR-shedding” it is theoretically possible, but since MMR doesn’t contain whole virus, it is impossible to actually “infect” someone with full-blown measles from the vaccine regardless.

    And to your point – poverty in the US is the worst in several decades, with millions of children living below the poverty line & we still don’t have access to universal health care….you can say what you will from your “privileged” position – but lots of people in this country aren’t in the same boat as you.

    • Perhaps you should correct the CDC for their error in saying no measles deaths in U.S. in past ten years.
      MMR contains live virus. Again, I had no idea this could happen either until I read several reports on it. But don’t take my word for it – look it up yourself.

      And living below poverty line in the U.S. is a far cry from third world countries where children live without electricity, running water or any health care at all.

      • Citation regarding the CDC – because it is their own records that show the deaths.

        MMR contains “attenuated” live virus – meaning it doesn’t contain the entire virus, just enough antigens to elicit an immune response.

        I would recommend that you actually study immunology before you post.

        Poverty exists in the United States, malnutrition exists in the United States, lack of access to health care exists in the United States – so it pretty much negates the belief that US children are somehow significantly better off…..which probably means that only thousands might die, as opposed to hundreds of thousands, like what happens in the developing world.

        Oh, and a baby just died of the Measles in Berlin, Germany – not exactly 3rd World…..

        • Actually, CDC recommends immunocompromised people to stay away from freshly vaccinated people for at least 3 weeks after MMR vaccination – exactly because virus from the vaccine CAN spread!

    • Ten people have probably died from defective manhole covers or lightning strikes in the last ten years. I’m not sure that small a number is indicative of anything serious.

      And in fact I had measles as a kid and, of all the childhood diseases out there, measles is probably the mildest. Try getting whooping cough or mumps and than get back to me.

      We have two children and neither has had any vaccinations. We had to jump through some hoops to fight the bureaucrats on that, but we prevailed. Neither has had any childhood diseases and both are in perfect health.

      Sorry, but I’m with Jill on this. There is paranoia afoot.