Is it better to vaccinate children for measles or not?You might know someone who had the measles or you might have had them yourself. It once was a common childhood disease. Such as influenza, otherwise known as the flu, also seems commonplace today, has killed millions of people through the decades. Today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles are still a leading cause of death among young children.
Diane Thomas currently works in Dr. Manchester’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute. She also assisted in studies, in Dr. Oldstone’s lab, that explored disease pathogenesis, measles being on of the viruses employed to this end. After asked about the basic premises of the measles and how contagious is it she responded that, “Measles is extremely contagious. It is an airborne virus that you can contract by just breathing in a room with someone who is infected. Since measles virus has a long incubation period, up to 12 days, you can be infected before you show any symptoms and some people who are infected may never show any symptoms at all, but may nevertheless pass on the infection to others.”
Measles is targeted for eradication by vaccination by the World Health Organization (estimated date 2010, WHO). Although, in recent years, vaccination rates have significantly fallen in many places around the world such as Britain, Japan, and Europe and measles have become endemic in many countries. Therefore, the circulation of the virus worldwide, combined with increased global travel, means that a non-vaccinated individual is highly likely to be exposed to the virus at some point in their lifetime.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in January 2008 measles were identified in an unvaccinated seven-year old boy from San Diego who had traveled to Switzerland with his family. During Jan. 31 through Feb. 17, 11 additional cases of measles were identified in unvaccinated children aged 10 months though 9 years in San Diego (
Bryan and Marybeth Ward’s youngest child was exposed to the measles during this time period. The Ward’s and their five children live in the Bird Rock area. Marybeth described their situation: “Our daughter, who was six months old at the time, was exposed to someone with the measles at the doctor’s office [middle of February]… [while our daughter was getting her] six-month vaccines. We walked out in the waiting area where the exposed child was [waiting]. We were notified five to seven days later [of the exposure] and told to go to Children’s Hospital to get a gamiglobin shot for her to try and ward off the measles. Two days later we received a call from the County Health Department telling us that Ashlyn was in quarantine and couldn’t leave the house for 24 days. Thankfully, Ashlyn never got the measles.”
In California parents can request exemptions if all or some vaccinations are contrary to their beliefs under the personal beliefs exemptions (PBEs) (
www.dhs.ca.gov/). Pam and her husband Tim took that exemption for their child, Natalie, now 9 years old.
“Natalie had none of the childhood vaccinations as an infant. I felt (and still feel) that infants are over vaccinated. Their little bodies are not ready to handle all of theses strange germs and diseases that the doctors give them. Until we went to the Dominican Republic the first time, which was three years ago, Natalie was shot free.”
In reference to our freedom to choose vaccinations for our children, Thomas commented, “Now that we have these vaccines, we do not have to live through massive outbreaks that kill masses of people so we don’t necessarily fully appreciate how lucky we are.”
Here is to all those scientist and doctors who have gone before us, who have discovered ways to eradicate such deadly diseases such as polio and quench measles here in the United States. For those who have gone before us, we thank them for our healthy kids of today.