The media’s obsession with pitting us against each other continues in full swing with ongoing news about the measles outbreak, now up to some ninety cases. Are you buying in? Are you mad at your neighbor? Did you blame that kid down the street, and her crazy parents? Are you a pediatrician who has vowed to break your vow of doing no harm and treating the sick, by booting a kid with measles infection out of your office? Good for you. You’re a hater.
Just like anything else where hate is involved (terrorism, racism, xenophobia, religious zealotry), ignorance and fear are the drivers. Our media loves those. It makes for great ratings.
Measles vaccine was introduced in 1963. That means that not one of these kids had been vaccinated against measles, when Disneyland opened its doors to eager throngs in July 1955:
There were no outbreaks.
It also means that most if not all of these kids had likely experienced natural measles infection. This was back in the day when your doctor worried if you didn’t get measles by the time you were ten – not the other way around. Measles was regarded as a beneficial childhood infection, for good reason: It conferred protection against some cancers later in life, and may lower odds for chronic inflammatory conditions like asthma, allergies, or eczema later on.
We know this: Natural infection works. It creates longer lasting immunity, by years. It creates community protection, or herd immunity. Vaccines, not so much. They wear off. And they don’t seem to confer strong herd immunity. Many argue they don’t confer herd immunity at all.
Even if we don’t introduce the A word (autism), MMR vaccine has a checkered past. Since it came on the scene, one fail after another has been reported in the medical literature, including reports from the CDC itself. In 48 years (since 1967), PubMed lists 360 articles citing measles vaccine failures and outbreaks in vaccinated persons. Measles outbreaks among highly vaccinated populations have been happening for decades. In one not so unique case from 1983, all children at this school were fully vaccinated against MMR (100% uptake) and there was still a measles outbreak. Can’t blame that one on those unvaccinating parents. But you can blame it on the vaccine being too weak to work. Now that so few of us have strong immunity from natural measles infection, and so many have weak or no immunity thanks to vaccination, outbreaks are going to continue. So, get a vaccine every single year? No thanks.
You might even blame that 1983 outbreak on the vaccine itself: Measles vaccination does, on occasion, actually cause measles infection. Which, of course, can spread. Here is one example, and another here. These are not terribly unique either.
Is this how the recent Disneyland outbreak began? The CDC is vague on its story. They concluded, without presenting clear data, that a visitor from “overseas” arrived with measles and started the outbreak. Where was this person from? Where is the outbreak overseas? Shouldn’t we know, to control more outbreak? Is the CDC so incompetent that it can’t identify the actual start of this small, contained outbreak any further? I doubt it. But I do know this: If this outbreak began with a vaccine-acquired infection, such as in the two examples above, the CDC would never tell the public. It is, um, quite a bit off message for them.
It strikes me as implausible that a person could arrive in a country with 95% vaccine compliance (which is what the US has for MMR) and start an outbreak – unless (a) the vaccine doesn’t really work in the first place (which it often does not, see PubMed citations above) or (b) the persons who got infected were not vaccinated.
If (b) is true, then in this outbreak, the vaccine was more protective than not. So, vaccinating parents, why are you yelling? Your kid is vaccinated, and you can be at peace. Stop hating already. An unvaccinated person is not going to hurt you.
If (a) is true, we have a problem. Whether kids are vaccinated or not, we have kids getting measles. Some data show that vaccinated kids in measles outbreaks get more sick than the unvaccinated ones. Nutrition status, especially for vitamin A, iron, and protein, are potent predictors of how sick a kid gets and whether complications may take his life.
MMR vaccination has not eradicated measles, obviously. And it probably never will. In fact, no vaccine has ever eradicated any disease. We still have all of ’em, from pertussis to chickenpox to polio. And it is not because some people don’t vaccinate. It’s because some vaccines work for some people some of the time, and don’t work at all for others – that is, they trigger clinical infection.
No vaccine works all the time. Some work quite badly. All of them have injured and killed innocent children.
Whose lives matter more, the unvaccinated or the vaccinated? Who do you hate more? Who deserves more care, kindness, and attention? The kid who got natural measles infection, or the kid who got it from a vaccine? The kid with polio from India who got vaccinated, or the kid without polio who got vaccinated? The twelve year old who is permanently disabled from an MMR reaction, or the kid who is disabled from a head injury sustained in a car accident? Pediatricians, which kid should you boot out of your practice?
Every kid matters. Peace out.