What Happens When Parents Stop Vaccinating Their Kids? A Measles Outbreak

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

New York City is currently grappling with a measles outbreak. Health officials have identified 16 cases of the highly contagious infectious disease, resulting in at least six hospitalizations, and are now warning unvaccinated individuals that they need to get their shots.

And New York isn’t the only place where measles — which was once so rare that it was virtually eradicated in the U.S. back in 2000 — is cropping up again. Within the past two months, health officials have also identified cases in the BostonSan FranciscoSan Diego, and Dallas areas. Measles have also recently been reported in suburban areas in Connecticut and Illinois.

Just one case of measles can pose a huge public health threat, since it has the potential to be transmitted quickly. It can spread through the air when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. For instance, last month, thousands of California commuters were potentially exposed to the disease after an unvaccinated man with the measles rode public transportation.

Many of the measles outbreaks here in the U.S. originate after an unvaccinated individual has traveled abroad and contracted the disease there. Then, when they return to this country, they can spread measles among pockets of other unvaccinated people. This isn’t an issue if most people simply get the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. That’s why San Francisco didn’t experience a larger outbreak after the recent public transportation scare there — the rates of MMR vaccination in that city are high.

But, thanks to ongoing anti-vaccine propaganda, that’s not necessarily the case everywhere. An increasing number of parents are choosing to forgo their kids’ MMR shot based on scientifically inaccurate claims that it can lead to autism. The actress and model Jenny McCarthy, who’s a prominent anti-vaccine activist, has a lot to do with that. By 2008, about one in four adults reported they were familiar with McCarthy’s views about vaccines, and 40 percent of them said her claims led them to question vaccine safety. This issue hasn’t died down since then; just this week, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and his wife, former reality TV star Kristin Cavallari, said they won’t vaccinate their kids over fears about autism.

Federal health officials have already been able to connect the dots here. Last fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report warning that anti-vaccine beliefs have fueled a rise in measles cases. Researchers noted that 2013 saw the highest number of measles cases in nearly two decades, and 80 percent of those cases occurred among unvaccinated people — most of whom cited “philosophical differences” with the MMR vaccine.

“I hope that those who are vaccine hesitant or vaccine avoidant realize there are consequences to their actions,” Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University who partnered with the CDC to publicize the release of that report, said back in September. “None of us lives in isolation.”

Nonetheless, this continues to be a contentious issue on the state level. Vaccine requirements vary, and some states allow parents to easily opt their kids out of the necessary shots by simply signing a form. Even though vaccine exemptions have been directly tied to infectious disease outbreaks, some state residents continue to resist efforts to crack down on those loopholes.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Mary B.
Mary B.2 years ago

Granpa C....I am going to post here instead of the way you messaged me....!) I didn't say you were an anti -vaxer....I said your post was almost word for word like many anti-vaxers....
2)...In my small Fraser Valley area there are 375 reported cases so far that were traced back to a Christian school that told the parents that vaccines went against God. It has spread from there to Washington state as we are at the border..
3)... this thread isn't about Gardasil or Merck
4) if YOU had basic immunization as a young person, enough said.

Barbara D.
Past Member 2 years ago

Yes, this article illustrates what happens when large numbers of people decide against vaccinating for measles, and to a lesser degree polio, two highly communicable and potentially dangerous diseases that have been eradicated for decades by aggressive vaccination programs.
There is no doubt of the efficacy and safety of these vaccines; there is no doubt that *personal choice* does not have a place in a decision that can adversely effect thousands of other people most being the children, elderly, and immuno-compromised.

Mary B.
Mary B.2 years ago

Granpa C......This particular thread is about a measles outbreak across Canada and parts of the US.....I totally agree with you that research and information must be sought....However..... your post is almost word for word the same as many anti-vax posters who are down on Merck and Gardasil has absolutely NOTHING to do with this article.....I'll bet (given your age) that you received all your childhood immunizations.

Granpa Chuck
Granpa Chuck2 years ago

Again, there are a number, a large number of us, who do not believe in the value of certain vaccines.
The issue is the overabundance of the number of vaccines given.. And some of the newest ones created.
Here is and Example "GARDASIL"
Educate yourself on the proper use of vaccines.. good health and common sense have a lot to do with your decision!!!!
Former Merck doctor says Gardasil will soon become the "greatest medical scandal of all time"

staci wade
staci wade2 years ago

TAG...... You're IT !

staci wade
staci wade2 years ago

I look forward to having senility so I don't have to care anymore. The pills from the shrink aren't working anymore. LOL.

staci wade
staci wade2 years ago

Ohio State University (OSU) Columbus, oh is up to 60 something now --> Measles.
ch 10 wbns, / ch. 6 wsyx, / ch. 4 wnbc.

During spring break they went home to where ever & gives a gift (measles) that keeps on giving and can't send it back maybe because their mommy thought they knew what was "best" for their offspring and refused to vaccinate during elementary school yrs.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.2 years ago

I don't understand parents who would rather subject their kids to the possiblity of a deadly disease rather than vaccinating for it. Worse yet, exposing other kids to this disease is irresponsible. I am one who is not totally convinced of the needs of some of the vaccinations but the big ones, YES, should be mandatory.

Dan and Tina Partlow
Daniel Partlow2 years ago

Vaccines just make common good sense!

Donna F.
Donna F.2 years ago

as far as I've read, the theory of autism-through vaccinations has been greatly disproved. I don't have children, but I readily get whatever vaccines are necessary