Measles, Mumps, and Rubella-Oh My!

by Rose Allocca on March 31, 2014

In my high school biology class, we learned the basics of the immune system and how our bodies fight off pathogens daily. When talking about vaccines, a few kids in my class mentioned that they never get the flu shot because it is linked to autism. This was the first time I was exposed to the absurdity that is the “anti-vaccine movement”. There was a 1998 study published that made the what turned out to be an incorrect claim that the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella was linked to autism. It turns out that important facts in the study were modified to support the autism link (npr.org). Even though the study was fraudulent, the findings caused widespread changes in the way people think about basic vaccinations in the US and Europe, causing a serious public health issue.

infographicmeaslescases     Notice the differences in pro vs anti vaccine posters   Movie_(D)

In a recent article from NPR, a graphic was used to document the frightening renewal of diseases that are preventable when one gets their basic immunizations as a child. Outbreaks of measles, mumps, and whooping cough have occurred in places were child immunizations have significantly dropped—all after the infamous 1998 study was published. A specific vaccine ingredient called thimerosal, used as a preservative in vaccines, has been declared the culprit by some “anti-vaxxers”. However, the CDC specifically states: “Evidence from several studies examining trends in vaccine use and changes in autism frequency does not support such an association between thimerosal and autism […] CDC supports the IOM conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.” Unfortunately, the overwhelming belief that vaccines cause autism is so bad that the CDC needs a separate heading and page of information available to the public.

You may be asking; “Who are these people that don’t get their kids vaccinated?” Since actress Jenny McCarthy became a major spokesperson for the anti-vaccine movement, she has become the object of criticism. The actress claimed that her son has autism because of vaccination, although recently it has been brought up that her child may not even have autism at all. On a website titled jennymccarthybodycount.com they describe the anti-vaxxers as “a variety of individuals ranging from former doctors who should know better, to semi-celebrities who have no medical training, to anti-government conspiracy theorists who distrust anything that the government says.” While the website speaks mockingly of these people, it is a serious issue that diseases that should be almost completely eradicated in the developed world are resurging.

While the dramatic reduction in the amount of children being vaccinated is a frightening idea to think about, instead of forever poking fun at them, people should be reminded of the good that the MMR vaccine (among others) does for the world. Since successful prevention is not something that can easily be seen, people have forgotten why while living in the developed world we no longer die from or are afflicted with old-fashioned diseases. The diseases haven’t disappeared, it’s just that we aren’t getting sick from them anymore—because of the absolutely safe and effective vaccines.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/01/06/132703314/study-linking-childhood-vaccine-and-autism-was-fraudulent

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/01/25/265750719/how-vaccine-fears-fueled-the-resurgence-of-preventable-diseases

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism/

http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/policy-statements/information-about-vaccines-and-autism


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