Measles Outbreak in the U.S.: How Poor Leadership + Bad Science = A Confused Public

From Yesterday’s Marietta Daily Journal Opinion Page

This week, a young child with measles arrived in Georgia from Kyrgyzstan via the Atlanta International Airport.  According to press reports, it is the eleventh case of measles in Georgia since 2002.  One measles case in our state is hardly a crisis, but it should cause us to reflect on the issues of the easy spread of communicable diseases, national immunization requirements, and political leadership.

According to a report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, “Measles is the greatest vaccine-preventable killer of children in the world today and the eighth leading cause of death among persons of all ages worldwide.”   The World Health Organization reports that there were 147,500 deaths from measles worldwide in 2013 — mostly children under 5 years of age.  This number would have been far higher without an aggressive push for vaccinations between 2000 and 2013.  It is estimated that the death toll would have been 15.6 million worldwide without immunization.

Despite these facts, the percentage of children being immunized in the United States has actually dropped over this same period of time to well below the optimum rate of 92 to 94% experts believe is necessary to eradicate the disease.  When immunization rates were this high, the United States had no outbreaks of measles in 2000.  In 2014, the U.S. had 644 reported cases of measles.  In January of this year alone, we had 102 cases.  How did this happen?  Simple:  Poor Leadership + Bad Science = A Confused Public.

Senator Rand Paul is not the only or the first American leader to provide poor leadership on this issue but since he is also a medical doctor, he is a good case in point.  Last week, he came out in opposition to mandatory vaccinations arguing that he has heard of cases in which healthy children developed severe mental disorders after being immunized, and that since parents “own their children,” they should be free to decide whether to have their children immunized.

The fact that Senator Paul linked immunization to mental disorders is nothing less than quackery.  The 1998 British study that linked immunization to autism has been shown to be not just a poor or sloppy study but a deliberate mischaracterization of the facts.  The author was found to have purposefully distorted results to lead to a false conclusion that benefited his sponsors – trial lawyers seeking to sue pharmacy companies.  As a result, the author, Dr. James Wakefield, was stripped of his medical license and the British Medical Journal labeled his study a fraud.

Rather than providing needed leadership, Senator Paul sought to give parents who refuse to immunize their children cover by arguing that the decision should be left solely up to the parents with no mandated requirements by the government.  However, contrary to what the senator says, we do not “own” our children.  Rather, parents are trustees of their children and there is an enormous difference between the two roles.  An owner has every right to be stupid, careless, negligent, stubbornly wrongheaded, and even intentionally malicious toward what he owns.  A parent as a trustee of a child’s welfare does not have these rights.  A parent trustee has the duty to study and take all necessary steps to protect and promote his or her child’s best interest.

As the trustee of their children, parents should be given wide discretion on what is in their child’s best interest but there are limits.  Immunization is one of those limits.  We can end measles as a threat but only by universal immunization and – yes – that means a government mandate.  No one is an island and the failure to immunize a child is a dereliction of parent’s trusteeship and endangers others in our society as well.

It is time for Senator Paul and other political figures, Republicans and Democrats, to step up and send a strong message on this issue.  Immunization is not just a good idea for a parent to consider.  It is a public health necessity to protect us all.

38 comments

  1. Ed says:

    There’s a simple question to answer about vaccinations: do you want to be a good parent and citizen? If yes, vaccinate. If not…. There’s literally no other position. (Religious exceptions aside, but even then….)

    • Rick Day says:

      Ed, are you a socialist? Because that last line you typed is pure socialism. Not that is is a bad thing, I just like to point out when the GOP hates socialism, except when they embrace it.

      ahhh that ‘either/or choice’ is a fallacy, Ed. Just saying there are only two choices is dismissing many other possibilities. Also you can neglect and abuse your children and still have them vaccinated.
      Also we are talking well documented side effects. Singling out ‘autism’ is a red herring fallacy.

      Vaccinations are not a merit badge one gets to achieve their ‘good parents patch.’
      You can take a weaker dose. You can skip measles and get other vaccinations. You can double your vaccinations to make DARN sure the kids don’t get sick. Or you can follow the orders and take the dose Big Pharma has assured us is ‘perfectly safe’.

      Or you can admit your fatality statistic was VERY cherry picked, and reflects only that in poor countries with poor sanitary conditions sometimes children can succumb to diseases that normal kids just weather through.

      • Max Power says:

        Or you can admit your fatality statistic was VERY cherry picked, and reflects only that in poor countries with poor sanitary conditions sometimes children can succumb to diseases that normal kids just weather through.

        Except of course those 123 people including 60 kids under 5 who died in the big outbreak in 1990-91.

      • Noway says:

        I just accidentally snorted Coca Cola up my nose and it’s burning like hell! The idea of Choosy Mother’s Choose Rick calling ANYbody a socialist is beyond rich! Kettle meet Pot! LOL!

  2. TheEiger says:

    I’ve been on the fence when it comes to Rand Paul. Some days I’m a fan other days he is a loon. I’m completely off the fence now because of this issue. If you don’t vaccinate your children for Measles, Mumps and Rubella you should be taken out to the back yard and shot. There is zero evidence that today’s vaccines cause any type of mental disorders. Zero.

    • Rick Day says:

      do you mean literally shot? Seriously? How can you look at someone and tell if they were vaccinated? What if they can’t find “Ze Paperz” right away? Death penalty for not carrying “Ze Paperz”?

      Also, do you not realize there is black box warnings on the labels of vaccines, and the thing is 2 pages long listing side effects? Are we just limiting this to ‘mental’ issues?

      And you think Paul is a Loon? You want to blindly follow Pope Pharma?

      Are you old enough to remember this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide

      Do you know the first polio vaccine actually killed and gave polio to more people than it protected (live virus vs dead virus).

      How did we make it this far as a species without the mandatory use of a government program?

      This is just more fear mongering. Ebola was too exotic to rile up the populace, so now we have a measles ‘thing’. This is mass media slight of hand and you are playing along.

      Caveat: I got both the vaccination and the measles. I got the measles a few months after my vaccinations. And I lived through both just fine, like billions of other humans.

      • Ellynn says:

        I got the mumps from an 8-year-old child who’s parent chose to forgo vacanations, on the basis of Thalidomide agruement. I was 10 months old and a few weeks away from my first MMR shot. I spent 2 weeks in an ICU with a fever so high I had convulsions 4 nights in a row. Well over 40 years later, I still have scare tissue where the IV lines were placed in my arm. At one point the docter asked my grandfather if the family had any plans in place for which funeral home to call or which cemetery they used… just incase.

        Thalidomide at the time was a drug of convience. It only saved a women from getting sick. Vaccinations have been around for almost 300 years. They are not intended to stop all transmissions of a virius, but to at the very least slow it down and reduse the power of the virus if you contract it.

        IMO, If you Mr. Day want to gamble with the health of your family, that’s fine. But when doing so can endanger the lives of some one elses loved ones and can even lead to their death, you are then gambling with their lives too. That is chosing to be an irresponsible human.

        FYI on your caveat: A series of first level MMR shots given to infants between 1968-1974 by one manufactuer were found to have a slightly weaker version of the measels vaccination. A FDA memo was issued in the late 1980’s over this. It was found that some children as adults after going over seas got mild cases of measles even though they were vacinated. An additional booster shot was recomened.

        I am happy that you survived, when so many others in the world have not.

        • John Konop says:

          This is the slippery slope some people do not understand…..I will support people to make social choices as longs as you do not hurt other people. Not only are infants at risk I read about 8% of general population is at risk. If you agree to never come in contact with any people than you have the right. If you violate this, why not charge the parents with attempted murder and or murder depending on what happens to the victim. This is a very scary public health issue…

      • John Konop says:

        Rick,

        Facts you should know….This is not a joke….

        …..”Measles is also pneumonia, brain infection, it’s the leading cause of childhood blindness in the world,” said Gounder, who added that some parents who don’t want to vaccinate want to avoid anything that’s not natural for their kids……..

        ………story of a boy whose parents claimed their religion prohibited them from getting vaccines.

        At age 1, the boy developed pneumonia and meningitis caused by a type of streptococcal bacteria that the vaccine protects against, so had he been vaccinated, he would not likely have gotten ill, according to Offit.

        Measles outbreak: Different states, different rules on vaccinations

        The boy is currently alive but will never see, speak, walk or hear again, he said.

        “He will live in a vegetative state probably for five years until he dies from something else…….

        ………When people don’t vaccinate their children, they increase the risk for people in the population who can’t be vaccinated, such as infants under age 1, children and adults with weak immune systems and people with cancer.

        “Right now, what we’re seeing a resurgence of, besides measles, is whooping cough, which is especially deadly in infants who are too young to be vaccinated. So, you are not only putting your own children at risk but potentially putting others in the community at risk from that,” said Smith, who also leads an emerging infections laboratory at Kent State………

        http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/04/living/feat-measles-parents-vaccinate-children/

      • benevolus says:

        “How did we make it this far as a species without the mandatory use of a government program?”

        That’s awesome! So it would take our species dying out for you to change your mind?

  3. TheEiger says:

    “do you mean literally shot? Seriously? How can you look at someone and tell if they were vaccinated? What if they can’t find “Ze Paperz” right away? Death penalty for not carrying “Ze Paperz”?” I’m still up in the air. At least beaten to a bloody pulp.

    “Also, do you not realize there is black box warnings on the labels of vaccines, and the thing is 2 pages long listing side effects? Are we just limiting this to ‘mental’ issues?” So is the label on viagra.

    “And you think Paul is a Loon? You want to blindly follow Pope Pharma?” I trust the CDC more than I trust you and Jenny McCarthy.

    “Are you old enough to remember this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide. Do you know the first polio vaccine actually killed and gave polio to more people than it protected (live virus vs dead virus).” I’m smart enough to look at this map and realize vaccines have helped us almost rid the world of polio and we have it cornered to two locations in the entire world. Yay for vaccinations! http://www.polioeradication.org/Dataandmonitoring/Poliothisweek/Poliocasesworldwide.aspx

    “How did we make it this far as a species without the mandatory use of a government program?” Well, If I bring God into the discussion you will flip, but I’ll do it anyway. He gave us intelligence to design vaccines so that our children won’t have to suffer and die from the measles. Like we did for hundreds of years.

    “This is just more fear mongering. Ebola was too exotic to rile up the populace, so now we have a measles ‘thing’. This is mass media slight of hand and you are playing along.” I’m not a conspiracy theorist like you. I like facts. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/vaccines-didnt-save-us-intellectual-dishonesty-at-its-most-naked/

  4. Three Jack says:

    I’m not necessarily in disagreement with Ed’s point, but there is no mention of enforcement when he declares that immunization should be a ‘government mandate’. I’m curious what would happen if a parent refuses to immunize their little tax write-offs? What would Ed propose the government do to enforce the mandate? DFACS raid the home, confiscate the kids, immunize in the driveway maybe? Throw parents in jail, send kids to foster care? Just wondering.

    • John Konop says:

      A parent has the right if for social reasons they want to take the risk with their kids…..The moment they put general public at risk it should be illegal. That means no public places and interaction with other people……unless adults or parents sign waiver they are willing to take the risk of their kids interacting with kids without shots. For about 8 to 9 % of the population this is a REAL RISK, with extremely bad outcomes….It is flat out wrong to have the kids without shots, interact with people with no warning procedure.

      • Three Jack says:

        Keep em out of school. Make em wear a scarlett M. Not seeing how either will make much difference.

        I would seriously like to know what the former state rep. thinks about enforcing the mandate. Schools are just one place where the disease could be transmitted. How about ChuckECheese? Disneyworld? Sports and sporting events? The local mall? Even if you managed to block school access, there are many other places where kids interact.

        • Lea Thrace says:

          True. But school is the place where MOST interaction of kids happens. And the only one where government can control the flow of who goes in an out. Private businesses will have to decide where they fall on the spectrum of allowing un-vaccinated people into their establishments. Free market will then decide further.

          I do not like the idea of barring anyone from anything. But when it comes to public safety or public health, which this is an issue of, I prefer to err on the side of caution. Particularly since I am someone who has not been able to get certain vaccines through no fault of my own.

  5. saltycracker says:

    A cornerstone of conservative philosophy is to do no harm. No one’s individual rights freely or without public consideration permit a nuisance or a material threat to others. Science has shown the failure to vaccinate has a high probability of harming others and at least cost them money.

    Even if we fail to mandate vaccination, the guardians of the unvaccinated should be held accountable should they fail to quarantine and others are harmed.

    • blakeage80 says:

      I think everyone should be vaccinated, however, if the Government can mandate this as a public health concern, then they can pretty much make us do anything. How might the ‘mandated regimen be expanded? It’s not too crazy to suggest that some pharmacy money in the right pockets could have the population injected with something that we don’t need or might even be harmful. Also, once the government mandates it, then we all have to pay for it. That creates more government bureaucracy. Do I need to go further?

  6. Harry says:

    If we’re going to call out those who choose not to vaccinate – and yes we should because of danger of exposure of others in the cohort – then let’s not choose to ignore some other public health risks. Take a look at increased incidence of TB and measles due to the Obama politically-motivated lax immigration policies. Fact: Measles is a leading cause of child death worldwide.

  7. ANTiSEEN says:

    I did a job at Grady a few years ago and was required to either produce my vaccination records, or get a blood test. Since I was vaccinated in the late 70’s my records could not be found, so it took the blood test. Neither I nor my associate “passed” the blood screening, so we both had to get an MMR shot to be allowed into the facility.

    If your’re over 40 and you haven’t had a blood test to see if you’re still actively immune to Measles, then you have no standing to demand vaccination by force.

    Ed Lindsay declares the government should forcefully vaccinate people, but by what means,?Obamacare? The IRS? Police? Compulsory medicine is a path that ends in hell.

    Unless you’ve had a blood test you don’t know if you’re even still immune. Anyone with such an opinion, that cannot prove they are current with their immunity, is wrong.

  8. ANTiSEEN says:

    If I may also suggest, read the first paragraph of Mr. Lindsay’s article, then skip to and read the last two paragraphs.

    The reasoning is devoid of logic, and divorced from reality.

  9. Dave Bearse says:

    Not saying I support it, but income deductions for dependent children and child tax credits being dependent on vaccination would promote vaccination.

  10. HarryA says:

    Does anyone remember that SMALLPOX was eradicated (that means WIPED OUT WORLDWIDE) by vaccinations? How many people were killed by smallpox? How about most of the native populations of North America after Columbus. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your children’s children wouldn’t have to face this deadly disease? Sorry, I’m trampling on your right to trample on mine. Get a life and work on a truly dreadful situation, like the US Budget deficit.

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