2019 BSJ Blog Spring 2019

U.S. Measles Outbreak: Why is this still happening?

by Andrea He

 

Measles has long been a disease that plagued developing countries in Africa and South America. In fact, it was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, due to the consistent vaccination of American children – which makes the recent news of the outbreaks in the U.S. even more mysterious and concerning.

One of the few diseases with an effective and safe vaccine, the highly contagious disease has been effectively controlled in many countries. Any outbreaks in the U.S., usually from individuals that come from overseas, are quickly snuffed out. However, there are currently over 700 cases of measles in the U.S., which has been the largest amount of measles cases in over two decades. Something important to note is that out of the 700 cases, more than 500 cases are present in individuals who have not been vaccinated even though many U.S. schools have mandatory immunizations and vaccinations.

Many states allow for vaccination exemptions – whether they be for personal reasons or due to allergies to certain components of the vaccine. However, these exemptions, not including medical reasons, could be dangerous. They help increase the popularity of the anti-vaccination movement by giving parents an out of the usually mandatory school policy of vaccinating children. This movement consists of people who believe that vaccinations can cause damaging effects in children, including autism. Even though these negative effects have been continuously debunked by many scientific research articles, anti-vaccine groups such as Texans for Vaccine Choice still keep those groundless fears alive. In fact, by not vaccinating children, it increases their exposure to more life-threatening or life-altering diseases and is currently causing large outbreaks that should have only been part of the past. It also affects many immunocompromised victims dependent on herd immunity.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City has been threatening to fine parents who refuse to vaccinate their children and/or themselves and to close down schools that do not comply with vaccination requirements. In this manner, city officials hope to reduce the number of people who could be affected by measles and reduce the growing number of measles cases. More stringent regulations and enforcement for the usage of the measles vaccine should definitely be implemented to curb these outbreaks.

 

Citations:

Blume, S. (2006). Anti-vaccination movements and their interpretations. Social Science & Medicine,62(3), 628-642. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.06.020

McKay, B. (2019, April 29). Measles Cases Top Last Week’s 25-Year High As Outbreak Worsens. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/measles-outbreak-worsens-as-cases-hit-a-new-25-year-high-11556557092