Lauren Dunn and Linda Carroll report at NBC:
A raging measles outbreak in Europe may be a warning sign of what could occur in the U.S. if something doesn’t change soon, experts say.
So far this year, there have been 41,000 cases in Europe and 40 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The European experience may offer a window on how quickly things can go awry when parents choose not to vaccinate their children, doctors caution.
What has been happening in Europe is now happening in the U.S. — on a smaller scale at this point,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine and author of “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad.”
The problem is the plethora of misinformation online, Hotez said. “The anti-vaccine groups have made very strategic use of the internet and social media,” he added. “It’s estimated that there are more than 400 anti-vaccine websites now, and when you put ‘vaccine’ into a search engine, it’s almost inevitable you’re going to get an anti-vaccine website popping up.”
And it’s not just the internet, Hotez said. “Now there are political action committees popping up in several states, including Texas,” he added.
It’s not clear what exactly is driving the anti-vaccine movement, Hotez said. But “there’s an element of the anti-vaccine movement that is peddling alternative therapies and making money off of phony treatments,” he said. “And there’s an element that have tied themselves to different political groups. In Texas the major anti-vaccine lobby likes to use libertarian garbage terms like ‘medical freedom’ or ‘medical choice.’ ”
The anti-vaxxers have had such a large impact that “now there is a terrific vulnerability in states like Texas and up in the Pacific Northwest,” Hotez said. “People forget that before kids were getting vaccinated we had between 400 and 700 deaths from measles annually in the U.S.”