Rising number of measles cases in the US raises important questions

By Catherine Sturman
Since the 1970s, health organisations worldwide have strenuously worked to eradicate a large number of diseases with the implementation of new and devel...

Since the 1970s, health organisations worldwide have strenuously worked to eradicate a large number of diseases with the implementation of new and developing vaccines. However, with growing concerns surrounding the long-term effects of these vaccinations, many parents are opting not to vaccinate their children, leading to a rise and re-emergence of diseases which had previously been removed in countries such as the US.

The US has consequently seen a growing number of measles cases, according to recent studies. The large majority of cases were individuals who were unvaccinated, rather than the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine itself being unsuccessful.

"The reason measles has come back is not because the virus has mutated. It's not because the vaccine isn't effective. It's because a critical number of parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children," said Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Many choose to become unvaccinated for religious reasons, or have general distrust surrounding vaccinations. There have also been concerns surrounding a link between the vaccine and autism according to a historic report which has since been discredited and retracted.

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Earlier this year, Minnesota saw one of the largest outbreaks of measles in over 20 years, where many unvaccinated individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that measles "is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected."

However, such information has not been enough to convince many parents. Following from a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland, a subsequent change in California law has led to the removal of parents’ rights to remove children from receiving vaccinations on the grounds of religious reasons.

With the law stating all children are to be vaccinated prior to attending school, many parents have been seen to forge medical documents in order to make their child exempt from the process.

“It really isn’t up to the parents,” said Catherine Flores-Martin, Executive Director of the California Immunisation Coalition. “Some doctors may feel emboldened if they … feel they can do that without scrutiny or consequence. It’s an issue that physicians need to address with their peers, and we’re going to help start that conversation. It’s up to the doctors to behave professionally.”

Nonetheless, such a stance has been adopted by further US states in order to tackle the ongoing rise.


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