Commentary

Editorial: Measles outbreak reveals willful ignorance of anti-vaccination movement

The lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record hits the nail on the head this morning when it rightfully decries recent measles outbreaks in this country and one of the key reasons for them. This is from “And now, measles, a disease that’s a threat to all”:

Not long ago, measles was virtually extinct in America.

Now the disease is back and spreading fast, and we have our own willful ignorance to blame….

Measles cases have surged to a 25-year high in the United States. As of May 3, there were 764 reported cases in 23 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles is highly contagious. A quarter of those who contract it require hospitalization. Approximately 2 of every 1,000 people who are infected die. Two weeks ago in Los Angeles County, Calif., more than 1,000 students and staff members at UCLA and California State University, Los Angeles were quarantined on campus or sent home after measles cases began to surface.

Part of the problem is a fear of vaccinations, fueled by a viral myth that getting the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, shot can cause serious side effects, including autism. That myth is rooted in a thoroughly discredited 1998 British paper that was so flawed that it was withdrawn by its publisher.

But some people hold fast to the misinformation and have used religious exemptions to avoid vaccinations.

When these trends are combined with the surge of the disease globally, the editorial notes, we’ve got a big and unnecessary problem on our hands.

And while we’ve yet to have an outbreak here in North Carolina, it would seem likely to be just a matter of time. Here’s the conclusion to the piece:

….we have seen what happens in this state when parents resist vaccinating their children. An Asheville school last fall saw the worst chickenpox outbreak in the North Carolina since 1995. Thirty-six students contracted the disease at the Asheville Waldorf School, where nearly 75% of the 152 students were unvaccinated.

Nineteen of the 28 kindergartners who enrolled in the school for the 2017-18 school year had an exemption to at least one state-required vaccination, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported. In fact, Buncombe County leads the state in religious exemptions for vaccinations for kindergartners with a rate of 5.7 percent.

That county’s chief medical officer now worries about the threat of measles, given that cases have been reported in nearby Atlanta, Spartanburg, S.C., and most recently, eastern Tennessee.

Ironically, those who hew to the anti-vaccination fictions are typically well-educated and well-off financially, and they cross party lines. We can only hope their better judgment, if not their better angels, eventually prevails.

They are placing themselves and their loved ones at risk by avoiding immunization.

Not to mention the rest of us.

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