I occasionally like to take a break from my regularly scheduled programming to give a laurel and hardy middle finger to the anti-vaccine movement. Here is yet another reason to say, “Fuck you.”
Last year was the worst year for measles in the U.S. in 15 years, health officials said Thursday.
There were 222 cases of measles, a large jump from the 60 or so seen in a typical year. Most of the cases last year were imported — either by foreign visitors or by U.S. residents who picked up the virus overseas.
U.S. children have been getting vaccinated against the measles for about 50 years. But low vaccination rates in Europe and other places resulted in large outbreaks overseas last year.
Generally, the Americans who got measles last year were not vaccinated. At least two-thirds of the U.S. cases fell into that category, including 50 children whose parents got philosophical, religious or medical exemptions to skip the school vaccinations required by most states, CDC officials said.
One child was almost killed. This is on top of recent outbreaks of whooping cough, which almost took the life a six-week old baby in Boulder.
All of this is connected with plunging rates of vaccination, particularly in granola-oriented areas where a huge percentage of parents have bought into various vaccine myths. And while some vaccines are not administered because of philosophical objections or medicals reason, a huge number are still because of the scientific fraud that indicated vaccines caused autism.
Our political class has not been nearly as noisy as this subject as they are on, say, Mitt Romney riding a horse. Diseases never go away. Vaccination saves lives. There are some small movements in the right direction, but we need a larger push to call the vaccine-autism link out as pseudo-scientific bullshit.
Measles continues to spread in Massachusetts, with two new cases confirmed this week, including one involving a 23-month-old boy from Boston who had received his first measles vaccination last year, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. The other was a teenage boy from outside the city who was treated at a Boston health care facility.
That brings the state total to 17 this year — and counting. In each of the previous four years, Massachusetts has had one to three cases. The surge has been occurring nationwide as well, with federal health officials announcing Tuesday that measles cases have been on their fastest pace since 1996. So far this year, 118 infections have been reported in 23 states, compared with 50 in a typical year.
And we’re lucky that most parents have not bought into the whole anti-vax nonsense:
France reported 10,000 cases — and six deaths — during the first four months of the year, most likely due to low vaccination rates. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes the rise in measles cases in this country to the surge in cases globally, most notably in France, India, and the Philippines.
Vaccinations are one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in human history. Measles alone used to strike about half a million Americans per year. At that rate today, we’d be seeing a few billion dollars and a couple of thousand lives gobbled by the virus every year. And that’s just measles. I won’t say anything about whooping cough, the resurgence of which has killed children too young to be vaccinated. Even if vaccines caused autism — which they don’t — they would still be worth the risk.
The efficacy of any vaccine is dependent on having herd immunity: having enough people vaccinated to deny the virus the reservoirs it needs to break out. For that, you need to vaccinate almost everyone who isn’t immuno-compromised. You can maybe make some religious exemptions. But you simply don’t have room for people who refuse to vaccinate because they believe the tissue of lies that was Andrew Wakefield’s discredited study.
For people to turn their backs on this miracle is maddening. It’s like they’re going back to living in caves. Only they’ll take a few innocent people with them.