The measles outbreak that started in Disneyland and the Disney California Adventure Park is bringing new — and mostly unfavorable — attention to the anti-vaccination movement.
At least 70 people in six states and Mexico have contracted the measles virus since the outbreak began in mid-December, according to the Associated Press. Of the infected, most were from California and between the ages of 7 months and 70 years. The vast majority of people who contracted the once “eliminated” disease were not vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for everyone 12 months of age and older.
In an informal survey conducted by MedPage Today, more than 88 percent of those polled think anti-vaxxers are a major threat to public health. James Cherry, MD, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently told The New York Times that the measles outbreak was “100 percent connected” to the anti-vaccination movement.
“It wouldn’t have happened otherwise — it wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” Dr. Cherry said. “There are some pretty dumb people out there.”
The anti-vaccination movement was fueled by a 1998 Lancet study that claimed the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine could cause autism. The study later proved to be fraudulent and was retracted, its author was barred from medical practice, and no other study has established an autism-vaccination link. Still, some people continue to believe the disgraced doctor’s false claim.
In 2013, Sanjay Gupta, MD, reported how people not getting immunized contributed to an uptick in some diseases like measles and whooping cough, also known as pertussis. In fact, just last year California had the highest rate of whooping cough since 1958. In light of the current measles outbreak, the majority of healthcare professionals and people in the community echo similar concerns, however, vaccination opponents or anti-vaxxers are sticking to their guns.
“What if they experience it,” said Dee Klocke in an LA Times article, commenting on the chance that one of her two children could contract measles. “So what?”
Klocke, whose children attend Waldorf School in Orange County, California, where 41 percent of the kindergartners were unvaccinated when they entered school this year, told the Times that she and her husband aren’t concerned about their children becoming ill.
“Maybe I’m saying that just because it hasn’t happened yet,” she told the paper.
For the Disneyland outbreak, the majority of infected people — specifically among children — had not been vaccinated, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told PBS. “And it’s really unfortunate, because vaccination can prevent all of this. One of the things we do know about measles is that the vaccine that we have is one of the most effective vaccines we have for any viral disease or for any microbe.”
“So this all could have been shut down if people had gotten vaccinated. That is the real critical issue,” Dr. Fauci said.
Photo Credit: Alamy
We want to know: Do you think anti-vaxxers are irresponsible and putting the public’s health at risk?