By Elaine Magliaro
Measles outbreak fuels vaccine debate
According to Face the Nation, Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said “his agency is ‘very concerned’ about the possibility of a large measles outbreak in the U.S. because of the growing number of people who have not been vaccinated against the disease.” Frieden said, “What we’ve seen is, as over the last few years, a small but growing number of people have not been vaccinated. That number is building up among young adults in society, and that makes us vulnerable,” Frieden said during his interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. Frieden added, “We have to make sure that measles doesn’t get a foothold in the U.S. It’s been actually eliminated from this country for 15 years. All of our cases result, ultimately, from individuals who have traveled and brought it back here.”
Rebecca Kaplan (Face the Nation):
There are at least 102 reported cases of measles in 14 states, according to CDC statistics. Frieden said there will likely be more cases going forward, and the CDC is taking “aggressive public health action” to identify contacts and isolate those infected in order to stop the spread.
Frieden said that measles is preventable. He noted that the best way to do that is with the vaccine, which he said is “safe and effective.” Kaplan said that there is “a 92 percent vaccination rate in the United States, but the number of unvaccinated children is higher in certain states.” She added that in California, “where an outbreak of the disease has been linked to Disney theme parks in the southern part of the state, 8 percent of kindergarteners fail to get the required immunizations against measles, mumps and rubella. In Pennsylvania, that number rises to 15 percent of kindergarteners.”
The Jacks Family and Their Concern about Their Two Young Children Contracting Measles
Elizabeth Cohen and Debra Goldschmidt (CNN) reported a story today about Dr. Tim Jacks and his wife Anna being worried that her ten-month-old son Eli may have contracted measles from a woman at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital clinic last week. Cohen and Goldschmidt said that Jacks’s son has been sick before, but this time it’s different.
Cohen and Goldschmidt:
Last week Eli was at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital clinic with a woman who had the measles, which spreads easily from person to person. Now he’s showing signs of the virus, such as runny nose and cough and fatigue. At 10 months old, Eli is too young to get vaccinated and would be especially vulnerable to serious complications of measles, such as deafness and brain damage or even death. But his parents have an even bigger worry. If Eli does have the measles, he could give it to his 3-year-old sister, Maggie, who has leukemia.
The two authors of the CNN article said that Maggie is feeling fine–but her parents “know that with her immune system wiped out by chemotherapy she’s even more vulnerable than her brother to complications.” Anna Jacks said, “My biggest fear is that I’ll lose my child, or that she’ll become deaf. My family has been through enough with cancer. I don’t want her to go through anything else.”
Cohen and Goldschmidt reported that, according to Arizona health officials, “the woman at the clinic who put the Jacks children in danger was herself infected by members of a family that doesn’t vaccinate and got measles during a visit to Disneyland, where the outbreak began more than a month ago.”
Dr. Tim Jacks, Maggie and Eli’s father, wrote a blog post in which he expressed his feelings to the infected family who went to the clinic. In his post Jacks said, “Towards you, unvaccinating parent, I feel anger and frustration at your choices. Why would you knowingly expose anyone to your sick unvaccinated child after recently visiting Disneyland? That was a boneheaded move.” He added, “Your poor choices don’t just affect your child. They affect my family and many more like us. Please forgive my sarcasm. I am upset and just a little bit scared.”
Anna Jacks spoke with CNN. She had a message for the family, too. Jacks said, “Your children don’t live in a little bubble. They live in a big bubble and my children live inside that big bubble with your children. If you don’t want to vaccinate your children, fine, but don’t take them to Disneyland.”
Anti-vaxxer Dr. Jack Wolfson Speaks Out
Dr. Jack Wolfson, an Arizona cardiologist who refuses to vaccinate his two young sons, said it’s the Jacks family who should keep themselves at home, not him. Wolfson said he felt that the family “that didn’t vaccinate and endangered the Jacks children did nothing wrong.” He added, “It’s not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child like Maggie] to be supposedly healthy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place.” Wolfson continued, “I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure. It’s not my responsibility to be protecting their child.”
When CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill, he replied, “I could live with myself easily. It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.”
Wolfson reportedly blamed the Jacks family for taking Maggie to the clinic for care. He said, “If a child is so vulnerable like that, they shouldn’t be going out into society.” Tom Frieden said that among the parents who opt out of vaccinations citing a personal belief, “most of them don’t have that deeply held concern.” He added, “They just may not recognize that measles is still with us, that it’s serious, and that not getting your kid vaccinated is not only a risk for your own kid, but puts other vulnerable kids in your community at risk.”
CNN report on measles in Arizona
Immunization protects others you care about. Children in the U.S. still get vaccine-preventable diseases. In fact, we have seen resurgences of measles and whooping cough (pertussis) over the past few years. In 2010 the U.S. had over 21,000 cases of whooping cough reported and 26 deaths, most in children younger than 6 months. Unfortunately, some babies are too young to be completely vaccinated and some people may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia, or other reasons. To help keep them safe, it is important that you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones.
Immunization protects future generations. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide. Your children don’t have to get smallpox shots any more because the disease no longer exists. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), the risk that pregnant women will pass this virus on to their fetus or newborn has been dramatically decreased, and birth defects associated with that virus no longer are seen in the United States. If we continue vaccinating now, and vaccinating completely, parents in the future may be able to trust that some diseases of today will no longer be around to harm their children in the future.
Excerpt from Endangering the Herd: The case for suing parents who don’t vaccinate their kids—or criminally charging them by Jed Lipinski (Slate):
Unvaccinated children threaten the herd. Take the San Diego measles outbreak of 2008. After unknowingly contracting the disease on a trip to Switzerland, an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy infected 11 other unvaccinated kids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of the cases occurred in kids whose parents had requested personal belief exemptions (or PBEs) through the state of California, one of 17 states to allow them. But three of the infected were either too young or medically unable to be vaccinated. And overall, 48 children too young to be vaccinated were quarantined, at an average cost to the family of $775 per child. The CDC noted that all 11 cases were “linked epidemiologically” to the 7-year-old boy and that the outbreak response cost the public sector $10,376 per case.
Today, several states blame a rise in preventable diseases on the declining child vaccination rates. In Michigan, less than 72 percent of children have received their state-mandated measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines. In New York, as Caplan noted in his blog post, pockets of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community are experiencing a mini measles epidemic. Thirty cases have been confirmed so far. According to Dr. Yu Shia Lin of Maimonides Medical Center, some members of the community avoid the measles vaccine because they think it causes autism. The most visible proponent of this idea, former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy, will receive a giant new platform for her viewpoints when she joins the daytime gossipfest The View on Sept. 9.
The belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism goes back to a 1998 study published in the Lancet by a British gastroenterologist named Andrew Wakefield. In 2010, after years of criticism, the journal finally retracted Wakefield’s study, announcing that it was “utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false.” Britain’s General Medical Council later revoked Wakefield’s medical license, noting that he’d failed to disclose his role as a paid consultant to lawyers representing parents who thought vaccines had harmed their kids. The CDC makes clear there is no connection between vaccines and autism.
Yet this dangerous idea persists. Often, it persists among people who are simply doing what they think is best for their kids. Which is why it’s necessary to take extra measures to ensure nonvaccinators understand the risk they pose to other people’s children.
How do you feel about vaccinating children? Do you think schools should child require parents to have their children vaccinated against diseases, such as measles, whooping cough, and polio?
Amid measles outbreak, anti-vaccine doctor revels in his notoriety (Washington Post)
CDC “very concerned” about potential for large measles outbreak (Face the Nation)
Five Important Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child (Vaccines.gov)