Once almost completely eliminated, the measles virus has been making a comeback in recent years. It spreads through the air in respiratory droplets produced from coughing or sneezing. While the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine had effectively been protecting young children who are most susceptible to the disease, a new anti-vaccination fad has cropped up.
In the past, only an estimated 60 people would contract measles a year; as of January 2019, 36 documented cases have been reported in the Pacific Northwest, and New York State is facing its worst outbreak in decades with over 200 reported cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, believes wholeheartedly that the anti-vax movement is responsible for this resurgence.
“When you get below a certain level of vaccination in the community, that’s how you get outbreaks,” he said. “That’s been scientifically proven year after year.”
Resistance to vaccines began in 1998 when a doctor in the U.K. published an error-filled study claiming that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism. Though he was proven to have falsified data and has since lost his medical license, the claim spread fear among parents. The current anti-vax movement is vocal in their stance against inoculations, but Fauci emphasized their importance.
“Measles is not a trivial disease,” he said. “When measles was rampant before the vaccines were available, it was one of the most devastating diseases globally and in the United States. Prior to the 1960s when the vaccine was introduced there were a couple million cases of measles and 400 to 500 deaths a year, thousands and thousands of hospitalizations and a thousand cases of encephalitis [inflammation of the brain].”
An estimated 24 million children around the world are unable to get their routine vaccinations (administered before 12 months of age) simply because of the poor state of their countries. Meanwhile, here in one of the richest and most technologically advanced first world nations on the entire planet, parents are voluntarily putting their children at risk — of illness, hospitalization, and even death.
Measles is extremely contagious: if one sick child coughs in a room and leaves, an unvaccinated person has a 90% chance of catching the disease. The best way to safeguard your child’s life — and the lives of those who are unable to receive their vaccines due to autoimmune disorders or medical problems — is to vaccinate them as soon as possible.
Life with an infant is already hectic and full of worry; babies don’t develop a circadian rhythm until they’re two months old, so parents probably aren’t getting very much sleep, and their fragility is enough to trouble even the most relaxed of caretakers. It is your responsibility to protect this small, helpless child by ensuring they receive their first round of vaccinations at eight weeks old.
Your efforts have long-lasting effects. Your baby will be safe from deadly diseases that plagued parents of decades past, and will contribute to that all-important herd immunity.