OUR POSITION: There’s no good reason we should seen an outbreak of measles.
Odd as it may seem in this day and modern age, we still encounter stories about children afflicted with what was once a common and scary disease—measles.
Measles is a highly contagious virus. Decades ago, childhood immunization programs virtually wiped it out in this country. Same for diphtheria, chicken pox and mumps.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Some parents—naturally fearful of harming their young children and unwisely reacting to bogus claims on social media—have refused to have their kids immunized. It’s still a rare instance, since Florida state law requires a full series of shots for children to enter day care or public school. But exemptions based on religious grounds provide a loophole and a crack in the wall protecting the wider community.
Recently, four children in Sarasota County came down with measles, according the the Sarasota County Health Department. The Health Department said it was unlikely these would spread. But, still, we worry about the situation and hope this represents simple parental misunderstanding or ignorance, not a new trend.
Kids must get immunizations for the following diseases:
Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (known as Dtap)
Measles, mumps and rubella
Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
Vaccine development the 20th century represented an astounding scientific breakthrough, miracle, if you will. Now, though, as the reality of measles and other diseases has faded from everyday life, some are unaware of the hazards and how all-in protocols protect the herd, so to speak. Yes, the possibility of individual adverse reaction exists. But the chances are infinitesimal. And the more children skip vaccinations the greater the risk for the general population.
That’s why public vaccination programs are all-encompassing. Individually, we assume tiny risks in order to promote the widespread health of all.
We’ll offer one case study from a friend whose daughter came down with measles in the 1960s. Many kids did back then, before the vaccination programs, so it seemed routine. It wasn’t.
While supposedly recuperating, the girl couldn’t be roused from an afternoon nap. A nurse raised an alarm. The pediatrician confirmed the child had signs of encephalitis. Other doctors and researchers were brought in and, eventually, confirmed the child had measles-encephalitis, a swelling of the brain that could cause convulsions and leave a child deaf or mentally disabled.
Fortunately, this child recovered. But it was a fright that reinforced the potential harm. And, the scientific reality is that potential complications from these diseases far outweigh the claims of potential harm from quack scientists.
Note that measles-encephalitis affects one in 1,000 people who catch the measles virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 20 cases lead to pneumonia, the most common cause of measles-related death in children. For every 1,000 cases of measles in children, one or two will die.
That’s the scientific reality and it brings an obvious takeaway: Kids need their shots. Each kid benefits. All kids benefit.