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Measles and the anti-vaccination movement

Measles and the anti-vaccination movement

Remember the damage measles can cause?

It is ironic that the success of modern vaccination programs against ancient scourges such as measles has been part of the reason parents today are so ignorant about what these diseases can do. A recent outbreak in California has demonstrated the effects of this lack of knowledge:

Researchers have found that past outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are more likely in places where there are clusters of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated…

In California, vaccine exemptions have increased from 1.5 percent in 2007 to 3.1 percent in 2013, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.

That’s a surprisingly large number—but hey, this is California:

Researchers have found that those who refuse vaccines tend to share similarities.

“In general, they’re upper-middle to upper class, well-educated — often graduate school-educated — and in jobs in which they exercise some level of control,” Offit said. “They believe that they can google the word vaccine and know as much, if not more, as anyone who’s giving them advice.”

An enormous amount of damage was also done by fraudulent science in the guise of an influential 1998 article in Lancet claiming a link between vaccines and autism, that has since been proven to be a fraud and retracted. But the study’s author, Andrew Wakefield, couldn’t have done it alone:

But it couldn’t have been done without a willing and for the most part scientifically ignorant public, clamoring for easy answers to medical mysteries. In an editorial in BMJ, editor Fiona Godlee writes that the furor against vaccines continues to be “fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession…”

Measles is a serious disease. It is very serious in populations that have not been exposed to it—just ask the Hawaiians, or what’s left of them. Measles is more commonly a relatively mild disease contracted in childhood, but one that in a significant minority of cases has very severe repercussions that can include encephalitis (see this for more details on why doctors are very concerned about measles outbreaks).

But many people cling to the notion that it is vaccinations that are the greater danger, and they will not be dissuaded by mere facts. I wrote about the anti-vaccination phenomenon in 2008, and I’m sorry to say the problem is still as current as ever (see also Part II of the article, here).

I will add that I have a dog in this race: personal experience. When I was young, virtually every child got measles as a rite of passage, along with mumps and chicken pox, and often German measles too. There were no vaccines for any of them. But it’s not primarily my own experience of having measles—which I remember only vaguely (I was around two or three)—that made the deepest impression. What was far more searing was the fact that, when I was two, my only cousin (age 6) had measles encephalitis and was so severely brain-damaged from it that he had to learn to walk and talk all over again.

He never quite made it back all the way, either; I remember him well after that. He remained partly paralyzed, walked with a strange gait, could not use one of his arms, had a great deal of emotional liability, and was subject to frequent seizures. When I was six he died of complications of the disease.

That is the sort of thing a child is unlikely to forget. Let’s hope it’s the sort of thing parents today won’t have to experience in order to protect their children against it.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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natural selection at w*rk, except for the innocent bystanders with weak immune systems, etc…

hard on the kids, but that’s on the so called parents, who would undoubtedly raised their progeny to be just as stupid as they are.

    rabidfox in reply to redc1c4. | January 27, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    And if, God forbid, one of their kids develop a serious complication from the disease it will be the fault of every one but them.

Andrew Wakefield has been terribly maligned. For those who want to read the rest of the story, here are two articles for starters.

    Milhouse in reply to JerryB. | January 29, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Bulldust. You are a liar, and so are the authors of the pieces you linked. Wakefield deliberately fabricated his “study” for the express purpose of creating a livelihood for himself testifying on behalf of parents who would sue under this theory he had invented. It’s difficult to think of a scummier thing any person has ever done.

Thank you for this article. Most people today have no clue.

    William Carey in reply to snopercod. | January 27, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Very sad. I talk with friends about our children’s childrearing decisions. Some make you wonder. I am extremely thankful that my grandkids have wise parents. I can only imagine a grandparent’s pain when their grandchild is one of the unlucky ones.

I heard some of the children who have come down with the measles WERE vaccinated.

Are they letting China manufacture the vaccines these days?

Can a parent know where the vaccine was made and its efficacy for certain?

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Uncle Samuel. | January 27, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Yes, about 80% of our pharmaceuticals come from China (and India).

    Milhouse in reply to Uncle Samuel. | January 27, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    There is no such thing as a vaccine that is 100% effective. Vaccines are powerful, but not omnipotent. That’s one reason why herd immunity is so important. When everyone who can be vaccinated is, so that the number of people without immunity is as small as it can be, the chances are very good that those few will never happen to be exposed to the disease, and thus will not catch it despite their lack of immunity. The more non-immune people there are, the higher the chance that one of them will be exposed, and will then expose the rest.

    The measles vaccine does not give life-long immunity. Something they discovered in the 80s with measles breakouts – and then recommended a second booster shot for kids entering middle school.

    I had the measles at 7 y/o in 1961 and it was no picnic. Even as I was lucky to have no complications, it was still 14 days isolated at home in a darkened room (very high fever for 3-4 days) with the doctor making house calls.

    Seems to me that the dirty little secret is that this outbreak has been the result of thousands of unaccompanied children flooding our country…..bringing with them diseases that had been eliminated in the US. The vaccine might not be as effective as promised but the strains of disease may very well be from the illegal invaders invited in my our esteemed president.

Isn’t also very likely that the hordes of illegals winding up in Cali are also not vaccinated?

And their children are being allowed into the schools without the usual requirements?

It’s regrettable but they’re reaping what they have sowed.

    Milhouse in reply to jakee308. | January 27, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    No, it is not at all likely. Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras all have higher vaccination rates than the USA. Much higher than California.

      snopercod in reply to Milhouse. | January 27, 2015 at 8:01 pm

      Evidence, please.

        Milhouse in reply to snopercod. | January 27, 2015 at 8:03 pm

        The statistics are published and readily available. You can easily find them. And it’s common knowledge among normal people. By supposing otherwise, and demanding evidence, you merely expose your own ignorance and prejudice.

        Go on, google it.

          Frank G in reply to Milhouse. | January 27, 2015 at 8:17 pm

          Uh huh – it would appear you are smoking the herb

          Crawford in reply to Milhouse. | January 27, 2015 at 8:24 pm

          You trust statistics from Third World one-party kleptocracies?

          Barry in reply to Milhouse. | January 27, 2015 at 9:45 pm

          “The statistics are published and readily available. You can easily find them. And it’s common knowledge among normal people.”

          “Global warming is going to kill us all” is common knowledge among normal people. Doesn’t make it true.

          Statistical data compiled by certain governments must be discounted. I cannot say to what degree of accuracy Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have reported their results. Only a fool would believe them reliable.

          “By supposing otherwise, and demanding evidence, you merely expose your own ignorance and prejudice.”

          Nope, no evidence needed. Whatever your/their government says must be true.

          nordic_prince in reply to Milhouse. | January 27, 2015 at 10:26 pm

          *If* all the little darlings who snuck across the border last summer were vaccinated, it’s hard to explain why the border agents who were “lucky” enough to have to deal with them wound up getting infected with the communicable diseases you infer the illegals were vaccinated for.

          If anything, the ones south of the border who are vaccinated are probably relatively well off, and have no compelling interest to sneak across borders ~

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Milhouse. | January 28, 2015 at 12:41 am

      Sounds like something we’d hear from a ‘rat precinct on election day. 😉

      Milhouse is right. I checked his source:

    Uncle Samuel in reply to jakee308. | January 28, 2015 at 2:07 am

    The Philippines has experienced a measles outbreak, perhaps some of the exposure came from there.

Most people also think chicken pox is no big deal, but I know someone whose daughter died of it.

    A good friend’s mom is 85 and battling a persistent and very painful case of shingles… it’s a very big deal to her.

JackRussellTerrierist | January 27, 2015 at 8:15 pm

This is typical California New Age idiocy. I’ve known hundreds of this type over the years, having spent all my life but the last three years there. They believe every snake oil salesman and charlatan that crawls out from under a rock. They are all paranoid zealots of the environazi school of “nature”. I knew one lady who took OVER 90 supplements per day but would never take a prescription medicine of any kind. Cost a fortune. They’ve all been indoctrinated into the left’s “settled science” on everything from toothpicks to bubble gum and every last one of them is like, you know, like…..a certifiable idiot.

Vaccinate their kids? To many of those people it’s like suggesting they drink rat poison. None of us will ever know, but it will be surprising if our species survives these morons. They’re multiplying.

    “It’s natural! It doesn’t have any chemicals in it!”

    As an aside on how ridiculous some of this can get, if lima beans were to be introduced as a new food today, the FDA would prohibit their sale. They have natural amounts of cyanide that could be lethal if not properly prepared, or if eaten raw. Can you imagine the embarrassment, having “Bean Poisoning” listed as your Cause of Death!?

Henry Hawkins | January 27, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Tip of the iceberg.

In 1992 Sen. Tom Harkin (D) snuck a provision into a bill creating the Office of Alternative Medicine within the Nat’l Inst. of Health. In 1999 Bill Clinton signed an appropriations bill that renamed it the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and jacked up its funding. In 2013 Obama renamed and refunded it as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. It began and continues as a pseudoscientific money funnel for favored hucksters selling ‘scientific’ potions and magic. It (whatever the name) is among the most egregious example of Democrats politicizing and bastardizing science for their own goals and agenda.

Here’s a critical brief history of the sorry business:


“Unfortunately, the name changes do not represent progress. Rather they indicate the success of non-scientific and anti-scientific health practitioners in their effort to co-opt science-based medicine and drive the agenda of a branch of the NIH that never should have been established in the first place. What the name change represents is the continued insult to science-based medicine by telling the world that the NIH does not care what the scientific consensus is on any medical treatments. If enough people can be duped into thinking they can cure their cancer by sprinkling turmeric on their graviola then the NIH will give the dupers money to test the safety and efficacy of a treatment with zero plausibility. Swell.”

This agency is killing people based on supporting and funding belief in magical medicine. There is no such thing as ‘alternative’ medicine. If it works, it’s medicine. Once in a blue moon a thing will pass to scientific medicine after being initially thought hogwash, but this is very rare. This agency has funded schlock like homeopathy, therapeutic touch, and reiki. People have died by wasting critical time and resources chasing bogus medical and medicinal practices – all fully supported by the federal government and your taxes.

    Uncle Samuel in reply to Henry Hawkins. | January 28, 2015 at 2:11 am

    Yep – the APA groups have been increasingly substituting ‘political science’ from empirical science since 1973. The latest is removing ‘GID’ from the list of abnormalities. Next thing we know, the MMPI will classify pedophilia, bestiality and incest legitimate orientations and lobby for legalization.

      Actually, the next trend is to use the APA to take away gun rights.

      The new DSM-5 has expanded the definition of ODD to include adults who exemplify “paranoid ideation” about the government and frequently express these delusional ideations on the internet. This Oppositional Defiant Disorder as redefined in DSM-5 is now destined to become the newest weapon against political dissent.

    “…to co-opt science-based medicine and drive the agenda ”

    And to make it sciency-sounding is what they DIDN’T say. Because Gaia.

    The basis for the agency isn’t wholly absurd; there are home remedies unvetted by Science™ (which is why they’re called ‘home remedies’ in the first place!) that seem to work. It could be useful to know why and how. Antibiotics didn’t stop at penicillin.

    Now, why this effort should be funded as a government agency is a very different question.

those of us with fibromyalgia have issues with the multi ones, something in the suspension liquid.
separate vaccinations though seem to be ok.
think a lot of the issues some may have had are to to doign it all at once.

Perhaps this is Darwinism.

9thDistrictNeighbor | January 28, 2015 at 7:49 am

There was a news story last night about a confirmed measles case in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The person was considered contagious. The story mapped three places the person had been—an urgent care type place, an emergency room, and a business in Palatine, IL. Let’s see, the business was called “Supermercado Guzman.” I rest my case.

SoCA Conservative Mom | January 28, 2015 at 10:18 am

What many parents fail to realize is that death from one of these diseases is worse than whatever side effect they worry about from the vaccine. In a way, vaccines have been too effective. Those under a certain age have not experienced the first hand agony of the disease or the grief of losing a loved one.

I come into contact with anti-vacciners often, having 2 children in school (home school/charter school mix.) The same people who fear vaccines think they are special little gluten intolerant snowflakes, based on nothing other than their own neurosis. I really think it’s all about setting themselves aside as somehow more special than others. It’s an attention getting mechanism.

Show me that the outbreak is occurring disparately in patients that refuse vaccinations and not also occurring in the older vaccinated, leave illegals out of this as a confound since they usually lack the intelligence and resources for high sanitary living and getting health care.

I’ll bet you’re surprised by the results. I’d expect to see unvaccinated get the disease, but I also suspect some elderly. As I’ve said on here before, I’m not anti vax. I have all of these vaccines myself (except the flu shot which is total BS). However, I believe that a good bit of our problem is related to the 1970’s/early 80’s myth that vaccines last a lifetime.

There’s a serious crack in the dam. Official science just made a huge admission. From Sharyl Attkisson:

CDC’s immunization safety director says it’s a “possibility” that vaccines rarely trigger autism but “it’s hard to predict who those children might be.” (They’re not even trying.)

This follows on the admission of scientific fraud by a top CDC scientist (op. cit.):

A CDC senior epidemiologist stepped forward last week [Sept 2014] to say that he and his CDC colleagues omitted data that linked MMR vaccine to autism in a 2004 study. The scientist, William Thompson, said “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information.”

This is monumental. The looming issue is, of course, liability. I, for one, don’t want to see the pharmaceuticals decimated, but the lack of transparency and government collusion is bringing it to that point. If honest scientists don’t step up right away, we might someday witness a combination of Nuremberg II and big tobacco lawsuits.

    9thDistrictNeighbor in reply to JerryB. | January 28, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Excuse me, but who the hell is “official science?” DiStefano has co-authored published, peer-reviewed studies specifically concluding that vaccines, thimerosol-containing vaccines, lots of vaccines all at once, do not cause autism. The granddaddy of all medical frauds, Wakefield’s original document in The Lancet can be read at the link—if you can get past all of the giant red letters reading REDACTED.

    Of course, someone got DiStefano to spit out a “guess” that there might be a “possibility” that could be “studied.” We don’t know what the questions were that got him to utter that priceless drivel. He’s a fool for having opened his mouth.

    The CDC doesn’t “do” science. They’re bureaucrats who largely stand in the way of real medical experts trying to do honest work.

    Yes, our government and her officials: bastions of “official science.”

    Milhouse in reply to JerryB. | January 29, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Attkisson is a nut. And a liar.

      JerryB in reply to Milhouse. | January 29, 2015 at 7:02 am

      Oh yeah — shoot the messenger. How did I leave that out in the age of Obama? The iron fist is a likely solution. Keep trashing any dissenters!

      Never address the science, e.g., the fact that the MMR caused autism in a group. Never admit that the CDC covered up the causation, committing scientific fraud.

        9thDistrictNeighbor in reply to JerryB. | January 29, 2015 at 6:26 pm

        To which group are you referring…Wakefield’s Lancet study group with a sample size of Twelve (that’s 12)? DiStefano’s own study on thimerosal-containing vaccines had a multi-year cohort of 124,170. DiStefano’ other study linked, the one that addressed parents who delay vaccines, concluded the following:

        “An infant’s immune system is capable of responding to a large amount of immunologic stimuli and, from time of birth, infants are exposed to hundreds of viruses and countless antigens outside of vaccination. According to the authors, ‘The possibility that immunological stimulation from vaccines during the first 1 or 2 years of life could be related to the development of ASD is not well-supported by what is known about the neurobiology of ASDs.’ In 2004, a comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine concluded that there is not a causal relationship between certain vaccine types and autism, and this study supports that conclusion.”

NC Mountain Girl | January 28, 2015 at 1:46 pm

My cousin’s first born died of measles when I was around age six. That raised the anxiety level way up when I caught the disease a few months later.

I also remember the long lines when the polio vaccine first became available. At every stage in my education there was at least one classmate in a body cast or leg braces due to the effects of polio. In some cases the disease left lingering psychological scars as well.

    No lines in my part of NC. The polio vaccine was “served” in sugar cubes in elementary school. I have a good friend that is a couple years older than me. A polio victim. He has had leg braces and used crutches his entire life. Born just a couple years too early…

I would highly recommend Paul Offit’s book: “Do You Believe in Magic?” He debunks the idea of alternative medicine – that it should just be medicine that works, but also reveals the sometimes powerful forces behind “alternative” medicine. In this game, I think we would all be best served by “following the money.”
No vaccine will every be 100% effective. To be honest, as someone watching the odd way we seem to parent, I would be more concerned about the potential effects of planting our children in front of the TV/DVD……(yes, if you Google that you can find a potential link….).

One of the big take-aways here is that getting your medical advice from a washed-up MTV veejay is probably not in the best interest of your, or your neighbor’s, children.