Sepkowitz, Kent, Newsweek
Byline: Kent Sepkowitz
vaccination skeptics have given new life to an old disease.
Measles is hot again. First the good news: a recent World Health Organization report found that, worldwide, 9.6 million lives were saved in the last decade because of redoubled vaccine efforts.
But here in the Unites States, measles is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. saw more measles in 2011 than at any time since 1995. Usually the U.S. has about 60 annual cases; last year it had 222.
While that number may seem inconsequential compared with colds (10 million new cases annually), salmonella (1.2 million), or HIV (50,000), the reasons for measles' mini-spike are particularly troubling. For measles, we have an effective vaccine, sufficient vaccine supplies, and an infrastructure in place to deliver the shots.
Measles is on the rise in the U.S. for the exact opposite reason it is dropping globally. Here, as well as in Europe and other resource-rich places, many people hate vaccination. Almost all of the 2011 U.S. cases developed in or were spread by unvaccinated Americans traveling to Europe and elsewhere, or about-to-be-sick travelers visiting the U.S. from abroad.
The number of vaccine-averse people is difficult to estimate, but only 90 percent of the U.S. population is vaccinated according to specification. …