The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pronounced measles dead in 2000. Ignorance brought it back to life.
The first measles vaccine became available here in the U.S. in 1963. In only 37 years the disease was eliminated, which was quite a victory for science. But what researchers couldn’t know was that in 1998 a fraudulent study was published that linked the measles vaccination to autism. This dishonest "study," which distorted the results in an effort to aid trial lawyers that were suing vaccine manufacturers, was in the public domain for 12 years before being retracted by The Lancet and the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, had his license to practice medicine revoked.
During that time empty-headed celebrities latched on to the study and began warning parents not to vaccinate their children.
The country is still trying to recover from that tsunami of dishonesty and ignorance.
Now a more in-depth look at measles vaccination rates by PBS shows progress is being made in convincing parents to protect their children with vaccinations. And make no mistake, measles is a threat. Until the vaccine was developed, each year some 48,000 people were hospitalized with measles and 500 died.
In 2014 there was a serious measles outbreak at Disneyland in California (details in my column here). That helped prompt legislators in Sacramento to pass a law tightening exemptions on vaccinating children. Parents in the grips of anti-vax hysteria had to file an affidavit signed by both a doctor and parent “outlining how vaccines violated their religious or personal beliefs.”
It had an immediate positive effect. “The improvement they found was incremental at best; researchers found that personal belief exemptions dropped slightly from 3.1 percent to 2.3 percent.” But that understates the improvement and is why readers should beware reporters bearing statistics.
That decline represents an almost one third drop in the nebulous “personal exemption” category. What’s even better, in a sound move for a change, the legislature removed all personal and religious vaccination exemptions for children that attend public or private schools or stay in commercial daycare centers.
This means, at least in an educational setting, children in California will no longer be part of an involuntary experiment to learn what happens when some parents stop following the dictates of science and instead follow the dictates of superstition and celebrity.
That’s good news in California for a change. The rest of the country is different. The report says measles vaccinations continue to drop and “today, roughly nine out of 10 kids get immunized for measles, mumps and rubella, according to the latest available federal data, a slight drop from the level seen in 2007. That opens the door for outbreaks in otherwise preventable diseases.”
Childhood vaccinations are one of the rare areas where the rest of the U.S. would do well to follow California’s lead. And the sooner, the better.
Michael Reagan, the eldest son of President Reagan, is a Newsmax TV analyst. A syndicated columnist and author, he chairs The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Michael is an in-demand speaker with Premiere speaker’s bureau. Read more reports from Michael Reagan — Go Here Now.
Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher for the League of American Voters, and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.