With the recent and widely publicized measles outbreak that seems to have proliferated in Disneyland, CA, many are left wondering how a disease that was thought to have been ‘conquered’ by vaccines was able to creep its way back into the population and threaten an epidemic.
One plausible explanation is the growing safety concerns that parents have expressed with respect to the MMR vaccine, which is distributed to children throughout the country in order to prevent three once widespread problems- measles, mumps, and rubella. In the early 1970s, the MMR vaccine was developed for use by the public, saving thousands of lives and preventing an overwhelming set of ailments that these viruses can cause (deafness, encephalitis, pneumonia, brain damage, and even death).
In the decades since the MMR vaccine was implemented into standard pediatric care, the United States has almost completely eradicated the threat of measles, mumps, and rubella. According to the CDC, by the year 2000, measles was officially declared ‘eliminated’. Why, then, are we suddenly experiencing an increase in the number of cases annually? It seems that parents are becoming more and more reluctant to vaccinate their children. When prompted as to why, parents often attribute these refusals to personal and/or religious beliefs. When it’s personal, it’s thought to have stemmed from the relatively recent idea that vaccinating children is unsafe and allegedly does more harm than good.
Many blame these vaccination fears on a fraudulent study published in the UK during the late 1990s that established a correlation between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism. The researcher who published the study eventually lost his license and the study was retracted due to the lack of scientific evidence to back up its claims and the inability of other researchers to replicate its findings. Despite the study’s ultimate failure, it went viral in the media and made a lasting impact on the way parents view the MMR vaccine.
The CDC and many other doctors have continued their fight against the fraudulent study and are more hard-pressed than ever to try and get parents in the United States to understand that vaccinating their children is not only safe, but also necessary to keep these viruses as dormant as possible. For more information on the history of the MMR vaccine and the safety concerns surrounding it, read a more detailed report from Medical News Today here. Visit an information page from the CDC’s website to read more about measles and vaccinations.