Can we eradicate measles in the United States a second time?


Child getting vaccine from doctor

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The latest measles outbreak continues to dominate headlines. Just a few hours ago, Reuters reported that an infectious Bay Area resident rode a train to and from work for three days, potentially exposing tens of thousands of commuters on San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system. And it's not just California.

Although in 2000, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from this country, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirm that cases of measles have been reported in 17 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington — and Washington, DC.

Centers for Disease Control 


How is this happening?

According to the CDC, the majority of people who have gotten measles did not get vaccinated against it. Measles can spread when it reaches a community in the U.S. where groups of people are unvaccinated.

What we are witnessing now in 17 states and our capital are the very dangerous consequences of a since-debunked report by then-doctor Andrew Wakefield, who, alarmingly enough, continues to spread misinformation about vaccines. Despite all the evidence that has since proven Wakefield's claims linking the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism to be unfounded, his report continues to bolster the anti-vaccination movement.

Starting in middle 1990s, many parents were bombarded with scientific coverage by trusted media outlets about the autism "epidemic." Scare them enough about autism and then report a possible link between MMR and autism, and you can't really blame them for being — at the very least — a little concerned. The problem is that many who are drawn to the movement are profoundly suspicious of big pharmaceutical companies and the government. It's no wonder the anti-vaccine movement has picked up such momentum.

We encourage our readers to question things all the time, including studies claiming one thing or another. So nobody is suggesting that anti-vaccine parents should never question Big Pharma. Nobody goes after Big Pharma more than Dr. Ben Goldacre. It is understandable how anti-vaccine parents believe Big Pharma is merely claiming there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism in the name of profits — but have they truly considered the scientists who have debunked Wakefield's report, those who have nothing to do with Big Pharma and, therefore, nothing to gain? Consider his view on vaccines and Wakefield in particular, including his advice that prevention is better than cure. Prevention is better than exposing your child to measles and having that child contract and require treatment for measles. In short, distrusting Big Pharma doesn't require you to distrust or outright reject science.