Editor’s Note: The serious and ongoing outbreak of measles among the Somali community of Minnesota, people who were targeted by groups spreading false scare rumors about immunization, is a very small example of what Americans can expect if anti-vaccine rhetoric gains a greater hold. Because of this, The Immunization Partnership released the following statement about the outbreak:
In case anyone had doubts, this is what happens when the likes of disgraced researcher Andrew Wakefield interferes in a vulnerable community, lying to parents about the MMR vaccine: An outbreak of measles threatens children’s health and even their lives.
Recent articles in Mic and the Washington Post describe how a concerted anti-vaccine campaign targeted at the Somali community of Minnesota over several years has resulted in an outbreak afflicting more than 45 unvaccinated children so far this spring, with about a fourth of them requiring hospitalization. The Post told the story of one mother whose two preschoolers fell ill; her 3-year-old daughter required four days in the hospital.
Vaccination rates in the community have fallen to a very perilous 44 percent in recent years, after a series of visits from Wakefield and others who deny the truth that has been abundantly shown by dozens of scientific studies: The vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella does not cause autism. Neither do other vaccines. And measles is not “just a childhood illness.” It is a highly contagious and very dangerous disease.
“People today haven’t seen measles in decades, if at all. There is a great deal of societal amnesia about what a serious illness it can be,” said Dr. Lindy McGee, chair of The Immunization Partnership’s advocacy committee. “Consider this: The FDA reports that 1 in 3 million people who receive a dose of vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox will develop encephalitis. Measles causes acute encephalitis, which can cause permanent brain damage, in 1 of every 1000 cases. This happens even when children are receiving top-notch medical care. There is no anti-viral available to treat measles. It is also one of the most highly communicable of all infectious diseases, which is why you see measles outbreaks first as vaccination rates go down.”
Doctors expect more measles cases in Minnesota; about 90 percent of unvaccinated people who come in contact with measles catch the disease. Meanwhile, those who are vaccinated receive a very high level of protection. The two-dose MMR series is 97 percent effective, meaning it provides 97 percent of recipients with immunity.
“People who misled this vulnerable population are responsible for this measles epidemic,” McGee said. “We urge everyone to follow evidence-based medical advice and be vaccinated, so that more do not needlessly suffer.”
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