Measles outbreak: it loves New York

Between 1963 and 1967, 1 version of the vaccine contained inactivated measles virus, rather than the live virus.

Vaccine Safety HandbookA couple weeks ago, I had posted on Facebook a news story about the measles. It noted that Los Angeles County health officials “told more than 900 college students and staff members to stay home because they may have been exposed.”

Someone I was unfamiliar with responded, “What is [the infection rate] in the countries from which most of the persons who enter this country illegally?”

I don’t know, but I pointed out that the folks bringing measles into the United States were not necessarily here illegally. Quoting the Centers for Disease Control: “The disease is brought into the United States by unvaccinated people who get infected in other countries. Typically 2 out of 3 of these unvaccinated travelers are Americans.”

But since she asked, I noted that while “measles is still common in many countries,” the current CDC Travel Notices on the disease are for Israel, Ukraine, Japan, Brazil – the state of Amazonas in particular – and the Philippines.

The World Health Organization, which has noted great strides being made: “In 2017, about 85% of the world’s children received 1 dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.”

Still, “Of the estimated 20.8 million infants not vaccinated with at least one dose of measles vaccine through routine immunization in 2017, about 8.1 million were in 3 countries: India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.”

I became curious about the propaganda machine that helped spread the disease in the United States. “PEACH, formally known as Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health, has been circulating magazines and pamphlets since at least 2014 that claim vaccines are in opposition with Jewish religious law, (falsely) link vaccines to autism, and recount anonymous horror stories of children being irreparably harmed by vaccines.

“Led by Jewish mothers, the group has brought anti-vax arguments and conspiracies into a community known for its cautious interaction with the modern, secular world.” It’s an interesting story that helps explain why New York State is the epicenter of the measles outbreak in 2019.

A bit of history: “In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. It is estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. Also each year, among reported cases, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles…

“Measles was declared eliminated (absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months) from the United States in 2000. This was thanks to a highly effective vaccination program in the United States, as well as better measles control in the Americas region.”

Also: “People who were vaccinated in the 1960s should double-check their vaccination records because there were two different types of the vaccine circulating at the time, and one was ineffective.

“The CDC warns that, between 1963 and 1967, one version of the vaccine contained inactivated measles virus, rather than live virus. This version was not effective, and those vaccinated with this version should receive a booster shot.”

Trying to understand the anti-vaccination movement

Those of us who know the importance of immunization need to continue to talk about it with facts and compassion.

measles.CDCMeasles – MEASLES!, which were all but eradicated in the United States by 2000 – has been experiencing a comeback in 2014. This was due almost entirely to unvaccinated people, who catch it from other unvaccinated people.

Surely, we can just dismiss some of the anti-vaxx discussion as political posturing by Chris Christie and Rand Paul and especially Sean Hannity of FOX.

But what can we do to try to UNDERSTAND this choice by what someone called The Know Better Party? (Check out the great links to the facts about vaccines.)

There is an interesting article in the New Republic, Don’t Blame Anti-Vaxxers for the Measles Outbreak. Blame American Culture. that says: “Parents who opt out of vaccines come to their decisions by prioritizing the very virtues American culture readily recommends: freedom of choice, consumer primacy, individualism, self-determination, and a dim, almost cynical view of common goods like public health.”

Miriam Axel-Lute, an Albany writer, commented there, and on her Facebook page:

So I agree that what this author is describing is a problem in American culture, but in my experience it doesn’t line up well at all with who opposes/opts out of vaccines. Here’s my theory… Vaccine opposition tends to be concentrated in places where people have the resources and wherewithal to challenge the medical model of birth–and there they are on very solid scientific ground.

If you have just gone through pregnancy and birth, deflecting a whole lot of scare-tactic hooey about how home birth and cosleeping are both criminally dangerous, you can’t drink anything in labor, episotomies are necessary, etc. and have been given all sorts of stupid conflicting information about breastfeeding and milk supply from professionals who ought to know better, you are very primed to be skeptical of the medical consensus and likely to believe instead the people who were more helpful and accurate on those other topics…

Original Title: FluVac25sRGBAs someone who supported his wife’s decision to change ob-gyns in her ninth month of pregnancy because her old doctor had dismissed our birth plan, there is definitely a credibility issue with the medical establishment in terms of childbirth and children’s needs, generally, e.g. the overuse/overprescription of antibiotics.

A participant in the very civilized Facebook discussion noted: “When people argue something like vaccines should be mandatory… it is in the same vein as forced c-section/forced hospital birth/illegal midwives.” Or it may certainly feel that way.

My point is NOT to say no to vaccines but to try to understand the other point of view, so we can try to change their minds. For instance, convincing reluctant parents to vaccinate their child by explaining the “backfire effect”. This parent-to-parent approach in this Mother Jones article may be instructive.

In short: Don’t Call Them Dumb: Experts on Fighting the Anti-Vaccine Movement: “People enjoy lashing out at anti-vaccine folks, (but) it turns into an ‘us versus them’ thing…They are committed to that point of view. You can provoke a kind of backlash reaction if you are not careful,” with even fewer people getting vaccinated. Most people do not respond well to feeling bullied.

Those of us who know the importance of immunization need to continue to talk about it with facts and compassion, rather than with vitriol, disdain, and schadenfreude, mostly because the latter attitudes simply won’t work.

Guess which state is #1 in vaccinations. Nope, not my guess, either.

A fellow named Rob made a cogent comment on this debate:

“In most of these cases [of public debate] (overprescribing drugs, climate change denial, gun ownership), there are marketing and PR firms making untold sums of money to stoke public fears and doubts about scientific research. That is one thing that sets the anti-vax crowd apart – no one is making lots of money off of people NOT vaccinating, at least not on the scale of these other issues. And maybe that could explain why they are the targets of such intense vitriol: they don’t have multi-million dollar disinformation campaigns bolstering their credibility.”
Film Review: When There Was No Vaccine.

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