Measles Outbreak Highlights Importance of Immunization Education

By |2019-06-04T09:06:33-05:00June 3rd, 2019|

In 2000, the measles was declared eradicated from the United States, after the introduction of the MMR vaccine, which is 97% effective with 2 doses. Unfortunately, that prediction turned out to be wildly optimistic.

Almost every year since then, measles cases have been reported in the U.S., mostly in vulnerable populations and in small numbers. Then came 2019, and the measles exploded back into the national consciousness with the biggest outbreak in a generation. As of May 2019, the measles outbreak in the United States had spread to more than half of states, with 940 confirmed cases, making it the biggest outbreak since 1994. Most of these cases were in isolated populations, including religious communities, but nearly all of them were united by one single trait: the children were not vaccinated.

Tragically, over the past twenty years, the anti-vaccine movement had been incredibly effective in undermining the efficacy of vaccines. The “anti-vax” messages have changed over the years, at first claiming that vaccines cause autism (despite high-quality research showing they don’t), then moving on to focus on allegedly dangerous ingredients in vaccines, and even claiming in some cases that vaccine are made from aborted babies.

Amplified by social media, these claims have created a new class of parent, one who exists somewhere between supportive of vaccines and inflexibly opposed to them. This new type of parent is often called “vaccine hesitant,” and they show up in pediatrician’s offices with a now-familiar list of questions. They want to know why their babies receive so many shots, if there really are dangerous ingredients in the shots, why they need to immunize their child if other kids are already getting the vaccines, and if it would be okay to delay or space out the immunization schedule created by the CDC.

These are not stupid questions, even if the answers are well known to the medical community. In fact, it’s important for medical professionals to find a way to communicate to vaccine hesitant parents in a way that reassures them about the benefits of immunization, without making them feel like they don’t have a voice in their children’s healthcare. Like any parents, they only want what’s best for their children, and these parents are open to being persuaded that the relatively small risk associated with immunization is much better than the consequences of grave diseases that can cause health problems for life or even death.

The Wellness Network is an enthusiastic partner with physicians and healthcare experts in your effort to help educate vaccine-hesitant parents. In addition to our existing resources available in the HealthClips library, in fall of 2019, we are planning to release new education aimed specifically at helping parents understand the benefits of immunization, as well as a realistic assessment of the risk. In the meantime, we stand with the medical community as we all look for ways to communicate the benefits of vaccines and help parents make the healthiest, most informed decisions for their families.


References

[1] Axios. Measles cases break record for past 25 years in the U.S. https://www.axios.com/measles-breaks-25-year-record-a28ea5b5-d0ea-4251-aded-5ebab65585e3.html

[2] Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. Measles Cases in 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html

[3] Children of God for Life. Prove It. https://cogforlife.org/prove-it/