Who’s to blame for the NYC Measles outbreak?

Even as a passionate vaccination advocate, this article makes me cringe almost as much as any anti-vax propaganda the article aims to discredit. It’s not factual. It’s not objective. It’s not news. It’s not helping the vaccination cause, it’s hurting us.

Ten years ago, if the article even made it to print, it would land on an editorial page along with a standard, dry disclaimer that the opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of the paper itself, blah, blah, blah, don’t blame us, don’t sue us. But in the digital age, this is touted as actual news. The headline draws you in, practically begs you to share with friends, pleads to go viral.

“Thanks, Anti-Vaxxers. You Just Brought Back Measles in NYC.

Measles was considered eliminated at the turn of the millennium. Now it’s back, thanks to the loons to refuse to vaccinate their children.”

–Russell Saunders, The Daily Beast

According to Saunders, the anti-vaxxers are to blame for the growing measles outbreak. They’re an easy target and it makes sense, right? The parents who praise Jenny McCarthy at night and warn others of the dangers of “big pharma”, they must be to blame. Some little snot-nosed, unvaccinated hippie kid obviously brought back the measles as a souvenir from their family vacation overseas and is spreading it all over our great nation.

mccarthy

But, wait, who did start this outbreak? If you Google this simple question, the first result is probably The Daily Beast article. But Saunders didn’t provide any actual facts supporting the claim that a child –whose parents chose not to vaccinate– started this outbreak. The truth is, at this point, we don’t know who started the outbreak.

We do know there are 19 confirmed patients with measles and these patients range in age from three months to 63 years, nine pediatric cases and 10 adult cases.

Children typically receive the MMR vaccine around their first birthday. So, the three-month-old, for example, was likely not vaccinated because they were simply not old enough. Other infected children may fall into this category as well. Again, we don’t know. These patients are hospitalized and quarantined in their homes, apparently too busy fighting off this dangerous infection rather than feeding our curiosity regarding how they got sick.

Most of the cases are adults. It’s probably safe to say there’s at least a good chance the initial patient who started this outbreak was an adult. Wait, are you sure YOU received the MMR vaccine? When was the last time you even saw a doctor?

The MMR vaccine given between 1963 and 1967 was proven ineffective and those who were vaccinated prior to 1968 should be revaccinated. So, while you may be imagining the initial patient being that snot-nosed, unvaccinated hippie kid back from Prague, it could just as easily been a baby boomer returning from Tahiti.

The MMR vaccine is highly effective, but it’s not perfect. More than 95 percent of those vaccinated develop immunity to the three viruses. Some do not develop the immunity and are given a second dose. So, if you receive the vaccine, it will probably work. But there’s a chance it won’t and there’s a chance that some of the affected patients DID receive the vaccine.

There are also a number of children and adults who are advised NOT to receive the MMR vaccine including those with severe allergies, a history of seizures, blood disorders, pregnancy, HIV, cancer, etc.

The truth is it is unfair to assume the anti-vaxxers are solely to blame for the current measles outbreak. We don’t know exactly who is affected or how the disease came to New York City. It’s very possible one or more of the kids who are affected were not vaccinated because their parents opposed, but it’s just as likely that one or more of the kids affected could not receive the vaccine or the vaccine was not effective.

If your child is healthy and does not have any risk factors that could promote a serious, adverse reaction, I think your child should get the MMR vaccine. Most children can safely receive the vaccine and it is effective in providing immunity to these dangerous illnesses. These outbreaks remind us that these diseases ARE still around and they CAN affect us. Immunization is the best tool we have to protect ourselves and others.

But when we place blame on those that don’t vaccinate, call them names and focus all our energy and loathing towards them, the message gets lost and this message is too important to lose.

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