Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Vaccinations Should Be an Obligation, Not a Choice; Our View; Vaccine Exemptions Endanger the Public's Health

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Vaccinations Should Be an Obligation, Not a Choice; Our View; Vaccine Exemptions Endanger the Public's Health

Article excerpt

Politicize science, ignore decades of hard data, add religious dogma and mix it all together. It's a recipe for a national public health problem.

The simmering controversy over childhood vaccinations heated up recently after an outbreak of measles among visitors to Disneyland and amid concern that close quarters at Sunday's Super Bowl XLIX could harbor conditions ripe for another outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control says the outbreak started in California in December, probably from someone who had contact with an infected person overseas. It has now infected 94 people in eight states with 67 of the cases directly linked to Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif.

Seven cases were traced to Arizona. With the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, state health officials there weren't taking any chances. In the lead-up to the event, they were monitoring more than 1,000 people who may have had contact with the measles virus, including 195 children. Officials were also asking people who may have had contact with the virus to stay home for a 21- day incubation period.

The United States began its measles vaccination program in 1963. Before it began, between 3 million and 4 million people a year developed measles in the U.S.; 48,000 were hospitalized; and as many as 500 died.

Science found a way to turn those grim numbers around. As more and more youngsters were vaccinated in the 1960s, the rate of transmission steadily declined. Health officials said in 2000 that measles had been eliminated from the U.S. because of the successful vaccination program.

All was good until about 2010, with a median of 60 cases reported annually in the first decade of this century. Then health officials began seeing the rates creep up. They reached a high of more than 600 cases last year.

The officials attribute it to unvaccinated people in the U.S. and foreign visitors who came from countries where measles are commonplace.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control, says the growing number of Americans who refuse measles vaccinations for personal and religious beliefs is helping fuel the outbreaks. …

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