Is the Measles Vaccine Really Such a Bad Idea?


While more parents than ever are avoiding the MMR (combined measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine out of fear that it may be causing autism, experts say that it is really not such a bad idea for your child to receive his regularly scheduled immunization shots.

One reason they point to is the rising numbers of cases of previously well-controlled illnesses like the measles. A report released on October 12, 2013 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the U.S. is on track for a record number of cases in the year 2013.

The report states that 159 cases of measles were reported between January 1 and August 24; and, if this trend continues throughout the year, the number will outpace any year since 1996, when 500 cases were reported. This figure would also exceed 2011, when 222 cases were reported.

Clearly, while parents may have been able to count on “herd immunity” to protect their children from illnesses like the measles in the past, avoiding the vaccine is becoming a bad idea.

Experts also point to the fact that research has not been able to establish any link between MMR vaccinations and autism. The 1998 paper published in the medical journal The Lancet which started the vaccine-autism scare has since been proven a fraud. In 2010, The Lancet completely retracted the article and the author of the paper, Andrew Wakefield, subsequently lost his ability to practice medicine. In addition, all of the followup studies have failed to prove any link between vaccinations and autism. In fact, separate reviews of the literature conducted by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.K. National Health Service and the Cochrane Library have all found no statistical link between the two.

And, finally, for those parents who are avoiding vaccinating their children because they just don’t want to take any risks with their child’s health, no matter how hypothetical they may be, experts suggest that parents should weigh these potential risks against the very real and known risks posed by these diseases. For example, the CDC offers us a very sobering statistic to drive home just how serious the measles virus really is: one to three out of every 1,000 children who contract the disease in the U.S. will die from it, no matter good the care is that they receive. And, even if children survive its complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis, they will still become very sick with almost 40 percent of children under the age of five requiring hospitalization.

In summary, while the controversy over whether to give children the MMR vaccine still continues, there are some very good reasons why it is probably not such a bad idea to give your child the vaccine in the meantime, such as protecting your child – and the population at large – from some very dangerous and life-threatening illnesses like measles. This especially seems true when one considers that the original concerns about the safety of the vaccine came from a questionable source.

Written by:  Nancy Schimelpfening

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