Letter: Measles is a serious and preventable illness

The World Health Organization has identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the 10 threats to global health in 2019. In the last month, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Amazon have started cracking down on vaccine misinformation. And yet, The Forum published “Hysteria over measles outbreak is ridiculous.”

I disagree. Let’s talk about the facts.

  • In 2000, measles was eliminated from the United States due to successful measles vaccine campaigns. However, increasing vaccine hesitancy and decreasing vaccination rates, combined with the ease of worldwide travel, mean it’s no surprise that we are seeing outbreaks. This trend can be reversed by increasing vaccination rates and dispelling vaccine misinformation, specifically many of the statements made in Wednesday’s letter.
  • Measles is a serious respiratory disease that is very contagious and can be deadly. In the pre-vaccine era, about 400-500 people in the U.S. died every year from measles and its complications. As we start to see more cases of measles, more people will die from a disease that is preventable. For those that get measles and survive, they may have long-term health complications or miss work/school and may incur significant medical expenses. Again, this is all preventable.
  • The adverse reactions listed on the MMR vaccine package insert are listed “without regard to causality.” Meaning: when the vaccine was given in clinical trials, a negative outcome might occur after vaccination that was in no way caused by the vaccine. To put this in perspective, other adverse reactions listed on the package insert include sore throat, otitis media (ear infection), and cough. Large clinical trials and post-licensure vaccine safety monitoring are conducted for all vaccines to detect the rarest side effects.
  • The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is an early warning system to detect possible safety issues with U.S. vaccines. Anyone can report to VAERS. Reports to VAERS do not mean that the adverse event was caused by the vaccine. Rather, it’s a “hypothesis-generating system” used to detect rare or unknown vaccine side effects.
  • The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was created to protect vaccine manufacturers from liability at a time when lawsuits, many of which were unjustified, threatened vaccine supply. Serious vaccine injuries are very rare – about 1 in a million.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all take a pro-vaccine stance and are more reputable than the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
  • The Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement about the use of aborted fetal cells in vaccines. (The rubella vaccine uses fetal cells during the manufacturing process, not the measles or mumps vaccine. The cells used today are from two fetuses electively aborted in the 1960s.) Individuals can receive these vaccines because the risk to public health outweighs any concerns about the origins of the vaccines. Let us also consider that rubella can cause serious harm to an unborn baby, and by vaccinating against rubella, we are protecting the unborn.

If you have questions about vaccines, consult with your primary healthcare provider or local public health staff, who will be able to give you evidence-based medical advice. Lastly, I cannot stress this enough: vaccines are effective, safe, and the best way to prevent many infectious diseases that cause serious disease and even death, especially among our most vulnerable populations.