The Centers for Disease Control reported this week that cases of measles had reached their highest levels since 1997.
This year, 131 cases of measles have been reported so far, already much higher than last year's reported 42 cases.
The CDC docs said that parents who are worried about a possible link between the measles immunization and autism are not vaccinating their children as often against this formerly common childhood disease.
Of the 131 cases, 63 involved children whose parents had refused to vaccinate their children.
"We're seeing a lot more spread. That is troubling us," said CDC doctor Dr. Jane Seward. The measles virus is highly contagious. One expert said that if a person infected with measles coughed or sneezed in a room of 100 people, 95 of them would come down with the measles. This quote did not come with a clarification stating whether the 95 people would have been immunized or not. One assumes it means this contagion would occur if the roomful of people had not been vaccinated; otherwise that would indicate a pretty crummy vaccine.
The New York Times reported that before the measles vaccine was developed in the early 1970s, more than 4 million people in the United States each year contracted measles; 48,000 of those 4 million, or about 1.2 percent, were hospitalized, and approximately 500 (about one one-hundredth of one percent of those infected) died.
Experts say pediatricians are "being forced" to spend more time than ever reassuring nervous parents that vaccines are perfectly safe (they say), and that doctors' offices are facing patient backlogs because of the amount of time they're having to spend with parents wanting more information about vaccine safety.
How annoying that a pediatrician might have to explain the possible side effects or risk versus safety issues of vaccines with parents who come in with their most precious charges and have questions. Those docs must long for the good ol' days when meek parents just tiptoed in with little Johnny and Suzie (because for one, these days it's more likely to be baby Amethyst and little Sage Running Bear) and agreed with everything the doctors said.
The CDC's website states that the measles immunization is 99% effective if two successive shots are received.
Yet almost half of the children who became infected with the measles this year had been vaccinated, which would indicate that the CDC's stated effectiveness of the shot is not accurate.
And the side effects listed on the CDC's own page might give any parent considering the vaccine pause. A high fever (of greater than 103 degrees) occurs in as many as 15% of patients receiving the measles vaccine, and a body rash occurs in 5%. Swollen lymph nodes, allergic reactions, low platelet counts, and febrile seizures are other relatively common side effects listed.
About 25% of "susceptible" post-pubertal women develop arthralgia (severe arthritis) from the vaccine, and 10% will have arthritic reactions.
People with allergies to eggs, neomycin, or gelatin should not receive the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, or those who experienced extreme low platelet counts with a previous immunization.
The package insert on the MMR vaccine warns that adverse reactions, including death, while rare, are possible.
No matter which way you look at it, vaccination is a hot-button topic among parents. MSNBC received such an overwhelming response from their initial report - suggesting that vaccine-wary parents were responsible for the measles increase - that they included a second article, made up entirely of parent reactions to the article.
Some parents sounded off on the irresponsibility of those who choose not to vaccinate: "I think the parents [who don't vaccinate] should be charged with neglect and their children not allowed into public schools or daycare centers, they should have to tell other parents that their child has not been vaccinated," wrote one grandmother.
Another parent responded: "It is wrong for a government or any other group of people to tell us what is best for our children. This is not neglect or abuse. We are sincerely interested in the health and well-being of our children. We are not ignorant or illiterate. That is why we have done the research ourselves and have come to the decision to keep our children safe from the unknown effects of vaccines."
"Most parents I know will take measles over autism," added J.B. Handley, founder of Generation Rescue, an organization that contends autism is caused by the MMR vaccine.
But some parents who are not even concerned about autism would still choose to let their children develop a natural immunity to the disease rather than taking the risk they perceive from the vaccine, along with what they see as dubious effectiveness.
But still others will choose the shots, and believe that they are doing what's best for their children's health and the health of the community.
As long as there is still some parental control over the health and well-being of children, there will continue to be disagreements as to what is in their best interests.