To some degree, the resistance to mandatory child vaccinations is an outgrowth of a skepticism grounded in experience. Given the number of times that politicians or government agencies have been caught lying or hiding information during the past, it is no surprise that some people question the need for vaccines.
There also is the liberty factor, meaning that people prefer to make decisions for themselves instead of being told they have to do something.
But when fewer children and adults are getting inoculated against serious diseases, it’s no surprise when the number of people getting sick rises. That’s exactly what’s happening now with measles.
The Washington Post reported that the first two months of 2019 saw 206 confirmed cases of measles — the most in at least 25 years. Sadly, that number of new cases in 2019 is higher than the 12-month totals in all but three years since 2000, when U.S. health officials declared that the disease had been eliminated.
This is not some benign illness either. Measles, which is extremely contagious, can cause serious health complications and even death. Before a vaccine became available for measles in the early 1960s, some 3 million to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. Of these, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many of this year’s measles patients are in Washington state, where lawmakers are wisely rethinking a state law that allows parents to avoid getting their children vaccinated. But others are in New York, Texas and Illinois, and appear to be linked to people who traveled to Israel or the Ukraine, two countries in the middle of large outbreaks.
In theory, neither the states nor the federal government requires vaccinations. The hook, though, is that almost all schools require their students to be vaccinated, which means that parents who aren’t going to homeschool have little choice in the matter, no matter what their liberty or safety concerns are.
If “herd immunity” rates don’t improve in some communities, this measles uptick could be the first of many for serious and deadly diseases that have been controlled for decades. The CDC and other health officials need to do a better job of convincing skeptical parents that there are good reasons to allow their children to be inoculated.
However, the most effective spokesman of late for vaccines has been an 18-year-old from Ohio. He testified to Congress last week that once he was of legal age, he got the shots his mother refused to give him. His mom, he noted, got her anti-vaccine information from Facebook — where everything you read is correct, right?