From autism risks to mercury poisoning, here are 10 lies anti-vaxxers are spreading about the measles vaccine in the Pacific Northwest
A public health emergency is unfolding in the Pacific Northwest, and it was totally preventable.A measles outbreak has sickened at least 41 kids and young adults in Clark County, Washington, along with a man from the Seattle area and someone in Oregon. One person has been hospitalized, and the governor of Washington has declared a state of emergency.Advertisement
So far, none of the patients whose immunization status has been confirmed got their measles vaccination.
It wasn't always this way. State records in Washington show that during the 2004-05 school year, vaccination rates for kindergartners in Clark County were above 91%. But during the 2017-18 school year, Clark County youngsters entering kindergarten had an immunization rate of 76.5%.Back in that 2004 school year, the vaccination rate was "getting close" to a threshold for herd immunity (around 95%), Clark County public health director Alan Melnick told Business Insider.
Herd immunity is a level of vaccination at which people who can't safely get vaccines (because they have HIV, cancer, or other conditions which make their immune systems more fragile) are protected. When enough people around them are immunized, they can live within a kind of protective tribe of disease-free people, and are thus relatively "immune" to illnesses like measles.But over the last decade, more and more people have been taking advantage of laws in Washington state that allow just about anybody to go to school without their shots for personal or philosophical reasons. Many of those parents are part of a growing movement of "anti-vaxxers" who worry about the safety of vaccines."My belief is that they have gone down because of all the misinformation going around," Melnick said of the county's vaccination rates. Advertisement
Opposition to vaccines is generally based on junk science that has been endorsed by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy who, with Oprah's help, falsely hinted that there may be something dangerous about the measles vaccine. Melnick said one need look no further than his county's official Facebook page to glimpse the rampant (and at times sophisticated) anti-vaccine propaganda that's spreading around the area.
Here are just a few of the ripest examples.
Before the introduction of measles vaccines in the early 1960s, just about every kid got the illness. Some anti-vaxxers wrongly assert that we'd all be healthier today if we continued to get measles. They've even suggested "measles parties."
But even a run-of-the-mill measles case can be torturous. Melnick remembered having it himself as a young child.Advertisement
Unfortunately, a discredited doctor named Andrew Wakefield has led many people to mistakenly believe that there's a link between autism and the measles vaccine.
Measles killed more than 400 kids every year in the US before a vaccine was invented. By contrast, the most recent measles death in the US was one adult case in 2015.Advertisement
Anti-vaxxers sometimes suggest that because the measles is a live virus, the vaccine will make a person who gets the shot contagious. This is not true.
Vaccine opponents often argue that drug companies just sell vaccines to make money. Actually, they'd make more money if they didn't offer vaccines.Advertisement
Some who rail against vaccines worry that a measles vaccine could cause kids to get more seizures. Again, not true: Febrile seizures are often triggered by fevers, and more measles cases means more fevers overall.
The same is true of encephalitis: It's far more common to experience brain swelling because of the measles than from the vaccine.Advertisement
Melnick also said that some anti-vaxxers express concerns that the measles vaccine contains mercury. It does not.
Some parents who don't vaccinate their kids think measles wouldn't be a problem if people just got enough Vitamin A. This conflates the issue of malnutrition with vaccination.Advertisement
Some anti-vaxxers wrongly suggest that people have died from the measles vaccine.
Many assert that not vaccinating their children is a personal matter. But vaccinations actually protect others from illness too, especially kids like Rhett Krawitt (shown below) who can't get shots because their immune systems are too vulnerable.Advertisement
Some parents of vaccinated kids in the Pacific Northwest say they might keep their youngsters home from school until the threat is over. That's not really necessary, as the vaccine is 93% effective after the first dose, and 97% after the second.
Anti-vaxxers are a tiny but vocal minority.Advertisement
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