In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. One result of this corrosive myth is the recent upsurge of measles outbreaks.
The states that have reported cases to CDC are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.
Some of the blame rests with unethical doctors, who are willing to take patients’ money and grant inappropriate medical exemptions to misinformed families, thereby putting other children at risk. A Voice of San Diego investigation of medical exemptions at San Diego Unified School District showed that almost a third were issued by one doctor who advertised medical exemptions. Two other physicians who issued large numbers of medical exemptions are on probation with the Medical Board of California.
The state Legislature, of which I am a member, has an opportunity to greatly improve the situation. Senate Bill 276, sponsored by the California Medical Assn. and the California American Academy of Pediatrics, would require review by public health officials before medical exemptions from vaccination requirements are approved. It would also create a database of medical exemption requests so the state’s medical board can better investigate unethical physicians.
Thirty years ago, measles outbreaks were caused by insufficient access to vaccines; today they are caused by misinformation and fueled by doctors who should know better. The World Health Organization recently declared vaccine refusal a global health threat, noting that it has fueled measles outbreaks and deaths around the world. Last year, Europe had 83,000 confirmed cases of measles and 72 deaths. And the U.S. is now at risk of joining the failed state of Venezuela as the only country in the Americas to lose its “measles elimination” status.