pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

Unvaccinated Children Suffering in Measles Outbreak

Last weeks issue [Apr 25, 2014] of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was quite disheartening in that it reported a new surge of Measles cases – a disease which was once on the razor’s edge brink of eradication.
Unimmunized infant suffering from measles
The total reported cases of measles in the US for all of 2013 pegged at 189 unfortunate children; which was, of course, up from the mere 60 (all imported) in 2000 before the despicably deceitful Andrew Wakefield perpetrated his scam to obtain funding money by claiming a relationship with the immunization to autism – a scheme which was uncovered, been totally disproven by further research, and got him de-licensed and retracted in Great Britain.

Measles Comeback?

As of April 18th of this year [2014] there are 129 cases reported in the US, a huge percentage in California and pretty much a third of them amongst unfortunate children whose parents listed “philosophical reasons” as their excuse for not having them immunized. Unfortunately, that means that TWO thirds of children inflicted got it completely unintentionally due to “philosophical reasons” held by someone else.

And it’s only April! Eight more months to go in the year! According to the CDC the virus is making its way into the United States via international travel from other countries – particularly the Philippines – and then spreading among pockets of unvaccinated Americans.

We can blame Wakefield all we like, but the US has its money grubbing scam artists as well. If it were up to people like Jenny McCarthy, who’s making millions from her dishonest ventures, we’d all be back to where we were only 30 years ago before immunizations began saving millions of children’s lives each year. There is a death toll associated with the anti-vaccination philosophy.

It’s only in the developed countries, like the US and Great Britain, where the populace can have the luxury of being fools with such impunity. Mothers in the majority of countries on earth know better! McCarthy and Wakefield’s lies, half-truths and innuendoes don’t fool them – they know better.

Measles killed over 500,000 children in 2003, more than any other vaccine-preventable disease. The measles death toll in Africa is so high – every minute one child dies – that many mothers don’t give children real names until they have survived the disease. Those that survive the diarrhea and pneumonia may suffer blindness, deafness or brain damage.

Vaccine For Children Program

Child awaiting immunization from school nurseVFC program, one of the true successful government health programsIt was actually measles which was the impetus for the creation of the Vaccine For Children (VFC) Program in 1993. Between 1989 and 91 the US was in the thralls of an epidemic which attacked 55,000 people, mostly children.

Back then, WE were in the same boat as the rest of the world is today. Every US school had students DIE from measles every year, EVERYONE knew someone who died of measles and MOST families had a member die from it. TODAY, worldwide, one in 94 children die from measles (1.1%).

Congress created the VFC program in 1993 in response to a measles outbreak from 1989 to 1991 that resulted in 55,000 cases. Back then the problem was not people refusing to vaccinate their children, but people finding it unaffordable.

The VFC makes shots free of charge for uninsured and underinsured children as well those who are Medicaid-eligible or native Americans; and, in the short time since its inception, has given the US a 90% immunization rate for the older diseases. Roughly 1 in 2 children younger than 19 years is eligible for free vaccination under the program and it is one of the true success stories of government programs.

Calculations have been done for benefits of vaccine programs (VFC-subsidized or otherwise) covering 1994 through 2013. For the 79 million children born during this period, vaccination would prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 premature deaths during the child’s lifetime.

In addition, by averting this level of sickness and death, vaccination would save the United States almost $1.4 trillion in total societal costs, including $295 billion in direct costs.

What Should A Parent Do?

But every statistic is a person with a family and we can’t even begin to describe the misery this one disease has brought to parents throughout history.

Thousands of man-hours of research, in many hundreds of research studies, involving experience with millions of children has led to the following best practice advice for parents from the Center for Disease Control:

  • EVERYONE should have 2 doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, with the first dose given between the ages of 12 and 15 months and the second between the ages of 4 and 6 years.
  • All parents should even have their infants who are between 6 and 11 months of age immunized against measles before ANY INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL.
  • EVERYONE born during or after 1957 needs to receive at least 1 dose of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine if they never had measles or been vaccinated.

 

[Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63:352-355, 362-363]

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