Prior to the MMR vaccine measles was an annual occurrence. Parents encouraged their children to become infected. They were not encouraging harm to their children, but if it was to happen the attitude was simply ‘get it over with.’ We never knew of a single child that died because of a measles infection. When the MMR vaccination became readily available, we all received it at no cost while we attended grammar or elementary school. This recent scare about contracting measles is simply a media creation.
‘At-risk children’ should be protected from contracting measles; about this there is no controversy. And here is where the discussion about whether or not to have a child vaccinated comes into play.
Here are the simple facts. Measles is highly contagious. Before the vaccine was invented an estimated three to four million cases of measles were reported each year. Even with the population levels at 189,241,798 in 1963, that seems like a large number. The number of deaths each year were recorded as approximately 450; now that number does not appear so fearful. This number reveals a very low percentage at 0.015 percent.
There has been an enormous amount of misinformation about the seriousness of measles worldwide. However, there is substantial evidence that having a child inoculated will likely prevent a child from contracting the disease. Last year the reported number of cases in the United States was 644. The majority of those were within the Amish community in the state of Ohio. Their cultural beliefs encouraged their members to forgo the vaccination. After the outbreak occurred, they rescinded that policy.
I am aware that the United States is egocentric, and that if it doesn’t happen to us, who cares? But the reality is that last year European nations had 3,840 reported cases of measles. The previous year more than 10,000 cases were reported. Individually, Italy had 1921 cases last year, and in the past five years France reported an excess of 23,000 cases of measles.
The worst scenario was in the epidemic years of 1989 to 1991. 55,000 cases of measles were reported in all of the Americas. A total of 123 children died from the disease. Health officials began recommending a two vaccine program and measles was virtually non-existent.
The larger number of measles cases in Europe is attributable to many factors, including the lack of available vaccine. Another is the break-up of the Soviet Union which has resulted in an unorganized health care system.
The reality is that for the majority of humans measles is a non-issue. Seldom is the infection life-threatening, and those who are in a more precarious situation should be protected.
The debate over vaccination is purely ludicrous. This is and should remain a parental right of choice. Medical science has proven that children who receive the vaccination are unlikely to be infected by the disease. That general knowledge should be evaluated by every parent.
This year the influenza vaccine was estimated to be only 23 percent effective. Vaccinations have become an issue of contention. The choice will remain a decision by parents and individuals, and the hype created by the media should be shamed for creating an environment of fear when none should exist.
Commentary by James Turnage