If you need a real world example of the damage being caused by the ongoing campaign of disinformation against childhood vaccinations, look no further than a new study published in Pediatrics. According to the pretty extraordinary report, researchers have traced a measles outbreak that occurred in Minnesota in 2011 back to a single unvaccinated child. The two-and-a-half-year-old was reportedly of Somali descent but lived in the United States; it contracted measles during a brief trip to Kenya and once it returned and assimilated back into daily life spread the disease to a family-member and three other children in daycare.
Once the child was diagnosed, doctors realized it was too late to quarantine it and that the measles outbreak it started had spread to 21 people total. Of those 21 patients, 16 hadn't been vaccinated, with the families of seven citing concerns about the safety of vaccinations for their refusal to immunize.
Over the last decade there has been a significant drop the rates of MMR vaccine coverage among Somali children living in this community; in 2004 over 91% of children were vaccinated, in 2010 this fell to just 54%. This is likely due to the misinformation spread about the MMR vaccine. Although the original paper linking this vaccine to autism has been discredited and retracted and the author was found guilty of misconduct and fraud, it seems that some ideas are difficult to shed entirely. Luckily, an aggressive response by health officials and community leaders in the area halted this outbreak before it spread even further.
The authors of the study conclude that misunderstandings about vaccine safety must be effectively addressed in order to prevent further outbreaks which are avoidable.
Measles is incredibly contagious which means that, as the Pediatrics study shows, even a single carrier can lead to an outbreak. If enough people are vaccinated within a group, though, even those without immunity can be protected via the herd effect. The problem begins when too many in a given group aren't vaccinated and herd immunity is compromised. That's what we're starting to see more and more of around the country and in other parts of the industrialized world, thanks to parents who think they're smarter than doctors because they can enter the words "Jenny McCarthyVaccine Autism" into a Google search field.
Due to the completely unscientific crap injected into the pop culture bloodstream by people who continue to shriek about how vaccines are dangerous -- more dangerous than the diseases they damn-near miraculously helped to almost eradicate -- there were more cases of measles reported by the CDC in the first six months of 2014 than in any January-June period in 20 years. That's a jarring statistic and it should give every single parent pause. An achievement in human medicine of gargantuan proportions has been undone by something far more tenacious: human stupidity.
We've said it before and we'll keep right on saying it: vaccinate your damn kids. If you choose not to, you're an irresponsible parent and a lousy human being.