Ever since the 1970's, the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine has been administer in the United States as part of the standard pediatric vaccination schedule. The initial vaccine is typically administered at age one followed by a booster shot at age 4 or 5; just before starting school.
Like the polio vaccine, the MMR campaign to vaccinate all children was so effective that the number of measels cases fell from the hundreds of thousands to just 200 cases in the 16 years from 1997 to 2013. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declared it essentially eradicated in the U.S. in 2000.
But, today, we have a serious return of measles. In 2014, there were 640 cases; and, thus far this year, there are 102 confirmed cases in 14 states with no let-up in sight.
Could we be on the verge of an epidemic? Maybe. And, the reason is simple. Too many parents are electing to either delay vaccinations or skip them all together. In fact, a 2009 study found that 40% or more than 11,000 parents with children aged 24 to 35 months had gone without the scheduled age-one vaccinations. Given the fact that about 4 million babies are born each year in this country, at least 4.8 million children under the age of 3 are without protection against measles every year; and, millions more who have either delayed vaccination well past the age of three or who will never allow their children to be vaccinated.
So, why are so many parents leaving their children at risk to contract a disease in which 3 in 10 cases have serious complications or even death?
Well, the genesis of not vaccinating is based on a very dishonest and flawed 1998 study in the United Kingdom done by a physician by the name Andrew Wakefield. He attempted to make a connection between autism and MMR vaccination, basing his entire study on the fact that the parents of 12 children said that their children were diagnosed with autism right after they were vaccinated. That's right. Just 12 children. With no attempt to confirm that children who were not vaccinated also developed autism. But, for a parent with an autistic child -- like Hollywood celebrity Jenny McCarthy -- this was all she needed to explain her child's condition. So, in 2007, she became an activist against vaccinations. And, because of her hundreds of appearances on TV and speaking engagements, millions of parents became convinced that vaccines cause autism. Even though the Wakefield study had been fully discredited, there is still a growing belief that vaccines cause autism. This despite noted medical data and studies that prove otherwise. It also didn't help that, during the 2008 presidential campaign, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton implied vaccinations may have a connection to autism. Barack even said the research was "inconclusive".
Now, I'm not a doctor or research scientist who has studied autism, but there is a simple statistical fact that dispels the connection to vaccines. If the number of parents not vaccinating their kids has risen to a level of of at least 40%, why then has the incidence of autism doubled in just the 10 years from 2000 to 2010. According to the CDC, in 2000, 1 in 150 children had autism by the age of 8. In 2010, that statistic jumped to 1 in 68; a doubling. Thus, lowering the rate of vaccination did not produce lower rates of autism. For that reason, I think that parents are unnecessarily putting their children at risk for measles and the other ten serious diseases that they should be vaccinated for.
MMR Vaccine History: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine
Measles Cases So Far This Year Show Sign Of Disturbing Trend: https://www.yahoo.com/health/increase-in-measles-cases-so-far-this-year-show-109981739842.html
Parental delay or refusal of vaccine doses...and the Health Belief Model: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21812176
CDC's Measles Page: http://www.cdc.gov/measles/
CDC's Autism Page: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
CDC Study Shows No Vaccine, Autism Link: http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20100913/cdc-study-shows-no-vaccine-autism-link
Hillary Clinton, Obama entangled in vaccines debate as old comments resurface: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/3/hillary-clinton-obama-entangled-in-vaccines-debate/