In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing disease to spread.
Measles, a highly contagious disease, was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000.
However, over the last decade, there have been over 3,000 measles cases across the country, which has brought the disease back into focus. Much of it is because of low immunization rates as a result of vaccine misinformation, according to many medical experts.
“I think vaccines are honestly a victim of their own success,” Dr. Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Hospital of Philadelphia, told Yahoo Finance. “I was a child in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I had measles, I had mumps, I had rubella, I had chicken pox. I know what all those diseases felt like, but my children … [don’t] see these diseases today. And I think for some people they’re thinking, why do I need a polio vaccine? Why do I need a diphtheria vaccine?”
We know that school vaccination is one way to reduce the number of unvaccinated individuals, and therefore protect the country at large. And while the loud voices of antivaccine campaigners can make such laws seem unfavorable, polling data show otherwise. A second bill passed in California this year, SB276, which strengthened medical exemptions after some parents used fraudulent medical exemptions to avoid vaccination and get around the changes implemented via SB277. A Los Angeles Times poll showed that over 80 percent of the population surveyed supported the bill, and that support was bipartisan.
Finally, though the removal of vaccine exemptions is not without controversy, both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics support tightening vaccine exemptions for U.S. schoolchildren as a measure to improve vaccination rates and reduce the circulation of vaccine-preventable diseases in the population.
The near-loss of the country’s measles elimination status should serve as a wake-up call for all of us. America has been a global leader in infectious disease control, but this year we’ve teetered on the verge of a massive blow to our reputation and credibility on the world stage. Meanwhile, 1,250 individuals and counting — primarily children — suffered from measles infection unnecessarily. We need to do better, and removing vaccine exemptions is a key way to protect the health of our most vulnerable.