Three women were interviewed during a recent Fox News segment regarding the potential exposure to measles at five major U.S. airports. One of the women said she was “pro-vaccination,” and another said she was troubled by the news regarding the highly contagious disease.
The third woman made quite a different statement:
Measles is not a big deal to me at all. When I was a child I had the measles. It’s an insignificant disease, and I think it’s stupid that people are making such a big deal out of it.
The woman for whom measles is “not a big deal” isn’t alone.
The modern anti-vaccine movement was, in part, sparked by a 1998 Lancet paper by former doctor Andrew Wakefield and a dozen colleagues in which it was proposed that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine might lead to autism in children.
According to a 2011 article by T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao and Chittaranjan Andrade, following the publication of the Lancet article, it came to light that Wakefield had not only received funding from “lawyers who had been engaged by parents in lawsuits against vaccine-producing companies,” but that the purported study on which his paper was based was significantly flawed.
Wakefield was later found to be “guilty of deliberate fraud,” having cherry-picked data and “falsified facts,” reports Rao and Andrade. According to journalist Brian Deer, the Lancet retracted the controversial paper in 2010, and Wakefield, as well as colleague John Walker-Smith, were “struck off the medical register” in the U.K.
Moreover, the study has since been debunked multiple times over. Despite this, several high-profile celebrities, like pop-culture guru Jenny McCarthy, have pushed anti-vaccine talking points for years, helping to keep the small but vocal anti-vaccination community alive.
Here are the facts.
According to the CDC, there have been 1,276 cases of measles in the United States in 2019. This is the highest number of cases in a single year since the disease was “declared eradicated” in 2000.
The CDC notes that in 2018, there were 17 measles outbreaks in the United States, and “three outbreaks in New York State, New York City, and New Jersey, respectively, contributed to most of the cases.”
Cases in those states occurred primarily among unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities. These outbreaks were associated with travelers who brought measles back from Israel, where a large outbreak is occurring. Eighty-two people brought measles to the U.S. from other countries in 2018. This is the greatest number of imported cases since measles was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.
“Over the last 18 years, measles vaccination alone is estimated to have saved more than 23 million lives,” reports the World Health Organization (WHO). Even with the proliferation of the vaccine, in 2018, approximately 140,000 people across the world died from measles.
Prior to the development of the measles vaccine in 1963, the annual death rate from the disease in the United States was between 400 and 500.
The potential complications from measles are numerous, including ear infections that “can result in permanent hearing loss,” pneumonia, and encephalitis.
Despite the abundance of evidence regarding the efficacy of vaccines and the repeated studies debunking the notion of vaccine-caused autism, the anti-vaccine community continues to keep a death grip on a number of people in the United States.
For a more detailed examination of the vaccine/autism hoax, check out this video by Dr. Aaron Carroll of Indiana University: