As of February 6, there have been 121 reported cases of the measles in 17 states and Washington, D.C., in 2015 alone. If the measles outbreak continues at this pace, the number of reported cases in 2015 will surpass 2014’s record-setting numbers.
All of this is being blamed on an increasing number of people who are opting not to vaccinate their children. Politicians, particularly the 2016 presidential hopefuls, jumped into a fierce political debate about the topic and are emerging with a wide range of opinions.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) fumbled by first saying that while his kids had been vaccinated, he believed that “parents need to have some measure of choice” in regards to whether they vaccinate their children. While he eventually backtracked by issuing a firm statement that “there is no question kids should be vaccinated” for a disease like measles, his response set off a firestorm of criticism.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) promoted a strong libertarian view by arguing that parents have a right to choose whether to vaccinate their children. He further affirmed the anti-vaxxer position by saying that he knew of “many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”
While Paul did not actually claim there was an absolute link between vaccinations and mental disorders, his comments sent the media into a frenzy.
The current Democratic favorite, Hillary Clinton, also jumped into the debate, tweeting:
Jeb Bush, who is still waffling on a potential run, defended vaccines during a speech in Michigan on Wednesday, February 4, saying “parents need to make sure their children are vaccinated.” His remarks were backed up by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
These debates, the firestorm, and the subsequent backpedaling have been covered extensively by all the nation’s major papers and blogs. What has garnered a lot less attention, however, is the official CDC information about the disease and its recommendations to prevent a public health epidemic.
First, the CDC explains that in 2000, the disease was in fact eliminated in the U.S. precisely because the vaccine had been so effective, with a 93-97 percent success rate. The disease was brought back into the country by unvaccinated travelers and spread throughout the country by other unvaccinated carriers.
Second, numerous studies have shown no link between autism and the measles vaccine, despite claims from various groups around the country. Children, however, do not get the vaccine until they are 12 months old, meaning children, particularly those at day care, are in danger of catching the disease at an even higher rate.
Doctors across the country are coming out in droves to support the vaccine. Taking it out of a political context, they appear unified that the only way to prevent future outbreaks is to get the vaccine which is a privilege to have so readily available in our country. If not, an even more dangerous outbreak remains a possibility.