Thanks to Doubts About Vaccines, Texas Church Has Measles Outbreak

More than 25 people have contracted measles in a recent outbreak of the highly contagious disease in Texas. Many of those affected belong to the Eagle Mountain International Church, a megachurch whose pastor, Terri Copeland Pearsons, has previously made public statement skeptical about vaccines while referencing the widely discredited notion that vaccines can be linked to autism.

Thanks to widespread immunization initiatives, the once-common childhood disease of measles that used to kill up to 500 Americans a year was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. Recent years have seen outbreaks throughout the country, though, as 222 people had measles in 2011 and 135 have been affected so far this year, even though overall vaccination rates remain high. The complications of measles include ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis and death.

At 98 percent, the immunization rate in Texas is high. But Eagle Mountain International Church is one place where there is a “pocket” of unvaccinated people, including children. Church members who homeschool their children do not have to follow state law requiring vaccinations for children to attend public school.

Measles Spreads Quickly

A visitor to the church who had not been vaccinated had traveled to Indonesia where measles is still common. In the Eagle Mountain International Church alone, nine children and six adults, whose ages range from 4 months old to 44 years old — church staff and members and children in its onsite daycare center — have contracted measles; twelve had not been fully immunized and the youngest had yet to receive any measles immunizations.

Texas health officials notified the church about the outbreak on August 14 and Eagle Mountain has since held vaccination clinics on August 18 and August 25.

Megachurch Minister Links Vaccines to Autism

Even after state authorities had informed the church about the outbreak, Pearsons still expressed reservations about vaccines in an August 15 statement on the church website:

“Some people think I am against immunizations, but that is not true. Vaccinations help cut the mortality rate enormously. I believe it is wrong to be against vaccinations. The concerns we have had are primarily with very young children who have family history of autism and with bundling too many immunizations at one time. There is no indication of the autism connection with vaccinations in older children. Furthermore, the new MMR vaccination is without thimerosal (mercury), which has also been a concern to many.”

Pearsons’ father is Kenneth Copeland, a megachurch leader who has promoted faith healing and also linked vaccines to autism.

Scientists and doctors routinely point out that there’s no evidence supporting spacing out vaccines. Doing so could leave a child (like some from the megachurch who have gotten measles) vulnerable to disease.

Pearsons’ and Copeland’s statements cohere closely with those of anti-vaccine campaigners over the decades. Since vaccines were discovered and public health campaigns initiated to ensure that as high a rate as possible of people were vaccinated against infectious diseases (measles, whooping cough) which have historically killed hundreds, some have claimed that these efforts are a sign of government interference into people’s privacy — the very argument often invoked by conservative politicians in reference to public education and Obamacare.

Vaccine-Autism “Link” Has Been Widely Discredited

The two Texas ministers’ views also recall claims which many have expressed over the past decade and a half since British doctor Andrew Wakefield said he had found a link between the MMR and gastrointestinal issues in autistic children and set off a global panic, as fearful parents decided not to vaccinate their children.

Wakefield’s initial 1998 study has been retracted by the medical journal, The Lancet, that published it. He has been accused of “deliberate fraud” and since been stripped of the right to practice medicine in the U.K. Quite a few scientific studies have refuted any link between vaccines and autism.

The prevalence rate of autism has continued to rise (1 in 88 children are now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder) as the diagnostic criteria for the neurodevelopmental disorder have been greatly broadened and public awareness and understanding have increased dramatically.

When my teenage son Charlie was diagnosed at the age of two in 1999, we were told he displayed all the symptoms of “classic autism” — impairments in communication and social interactions and repetitive behaviors. Now we have to add the phrases “severe” and “has intellectual disabilities” in explaining what he’s like.

With public schools around the United States opening, immunizations are no doubt on people’s minds as school children must have these to attend. Some parents seek exemptions on religious or philosophical grounds but states have made doing do so increasingly difficult and for good reason. In this day and age, those 25 or more children and adults in Texas who now have measles should never have contracted this deadly disease.

Photo from Thinkstock


Karen C.
Karen Chestney4 years ago

Everyone Should be vaccinated.

Diane L.
Diane L4 years ago

Good points, Margaret G.! I never thought about it that way, but you are absolutely right! I have gotten a "run down" (don't remember the source) of what it costs to produce certain medications, for example "Lipitor" and "Xanax", "Prozac"...........the cost to the pharmacist is like $.10 per capsule (or less), but we pay $150 for a month's suppy (or more). I know most of us who take such things don't pay that much IF we're on Medicare or have insurance, and if we accept the generic versions, but the point is, the cost to make is a tiny fraction of what the retail cost is.

Now, most vaccinations are 100% covered by insurance, and those that aren't are sometimes free at most drugstores. My cost to get a flu shot last year (first and only time I've gotten one) was NOTHING. I paid $10 to get a WHOOPING COUGH vaccination at the drugstore, which was far less than going to my PCP, BTW.

You're right that IF "Big Pharma" got much revenue from providing vaccinations, it would be cutting off their nose to spite their face, since sick people generate so much MORE when they have to then buy medications to address their symptoms. I HAD whooping couch in 2004, and it was mis-diagnosed at the clinic I went to, was prescribed an extreme round of antibiotics which cost me $90 out of pocket (no insurance at the time) and it did nothing since I had nothing that anti-biotics addressed in the first place. Cheap Walmart's version of Sudafed did much more for me to address my chroni

Margaret Goodman
Margaret G4 years ago

I am not a fan of Big Pharma. I believe that they stretch the truth for commercial purposes. But I do not believe that Big Pharma is lieing about the efficacy of vaccines. Below is my reasoning.

Big Pharma makes the most money by selling medications for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol ... The money from vaccines is much lower.

So from a crassly commercial point of view, vaccines don't generate much revenue and might even cut off sources of revenue. How much money would Big Pharma lose if there were an effective vaccine against AIDS?

Diane L.
Diane L4 years ago

If we're going to "speak historically", then please read the statistics here............

...........I doubt that 5000 soldiers dying of MEASLES during the Civil War can be considered "minor" and they were not children. This year, there is an epidemic in Wales that has involved 1500 people and hospitalized 84.

The statistics as listed in the website above involve only KNOWN cases. We don't have a clue about how many poor people, or Native Americans died because they never sought medical help or didn't know what the problem was, or because of no immunity, entire populations were wiped out! We remember references to "The Plague", and many now think it was never the BLACK PLAGUE but something else, such as measles.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Historically speaking, measles could hardly be considered a "benign childhood disease."

In 1529, a measles outbreak in Cuba killed two-thirds of the natives who had previously survived smallpox. Two years later, measles was responsible for the deaths of half the population of Honduras, and had ravaged Mexico, Central America, and the Inca civilization.

In roughly the last 150 years, measles has been estimated to have killed about 200 million people worldwide. During the 1850s, measles killed a fifth of Hawaii's people. In 1875, measles killed over 40,000 Fijians, approximately one-third of the population. In the 19th century, the disease decimated the Andamanese population.

In 2011, the CDC reported that the United States has had 118 measles cases so far that year. The 118 cases were reported by 23 states and New York City between Jan 1 and May 20. Of the 118 cases, 105 (89%) were associated with cases abroad and 105 (89%) of the 118 patients had not been vaccinated.

I think I am going to side with vaccinations.

Pamela W.
Pamela W4 years ago

Meris M ...... an interesting comment - a pity about the start and the finish of it though .....
"We're quite disappointed in Care2 for being pro-vaccine ......>.........>........ Please at least give a balanced view of the vaccine issue : pros and cons." .........

Have you never noticed the notice UNDER the comments box ??? .......... it applies equally to the authors' articles as to the comments submitted by members........

"Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers."

Meris Michaels
Meris Michaels4 years ago

We're quite disappointed in Care2 for being pro-vaccine. To be or not to be vaccinated is a choice that every individual should be able to make - and not be imposed on him by health or government authorities. Vaccination against measles does not guarantee immunity for life. With widespread vaccination against this disease, measles has become more virulent. 25 years ago, measles was considered a benign childhood disease. Once one had it, one was immune for the rest of one's life. Please at least give a balanced view of the vaccine issue : pros and cons.

Diane L.
Diane L4 years ago

Ummm, Ros, if you are accusing me of being angry, sorry to disappoint you, but I'm far from angry. I haven't resorted to insulting anyone here because I don't agree with them, nor do I mock anyone personally. Not sure what you are now referring to about "that son of yours being through way too much" if you were mentioning my son. He hasn't had any childhood diseases and was vaccinated against them as an infant. Please clarify?

Pamela W.
Pamela W4 years ago

Ros G ...... I've just sent you a PM, to answer your question ........

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K4 years ago

The only place smallpox is kept alive is in certain germ warfare laboratories in the US who took over from the Germans in this research like many other things such as rockets, UFO research and so on . Germs and disease is maintained by the Pharmaceutical mafia to ensure continuing mega profit from scaremongering and selling useless chemical concoctions called antibiotics a word which means against life. Interesting to note how they get you to sign indemnity forms whenever they touch you and also tell you their medicines are against life yet we still pay them to do so and even put them up on a pedestal because we have been well and truly imbedded with fear by their expert advertising and campaigns.