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Fact Not Fiction: Measles Vaccine Is Safe, Effective And Lifesaving | NEWS-Line for Healthcare Professionals

Fact Not Fiction: Measles Vaccine Is Safe, Effective And Lifesaving


Regional and local measles outbreaks have hit communities across the country in 2019, with 555 cases reported so far this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the second highest number of cases since 2000 when measles was declared eliminated from the United States. Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that frequently causes a severe flu-like illness accompanied by a rash.

Complications occur in 3 in 10 who get measles and young children are especially vulnerable. Ear infections and diarrhea are most common, but 1 in 20 will get pneumonia, 1 in 1,000 will have brain swelling that can cause deafness and intellectual disability and 1 or 2 in 1,000 will die.

Unfortunately, the growth of anti-vaccine propaganda is threatening the public’s protection against this frightening illness.

“Vaccine hesitancy, when families delay or reject lifesaving vaccines because of a misunderstanding or mistrust of vaccines, is extremely concerning and is causing serious and preventable illness across the country,” said Matthew Zahn, M.D., chair of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s (IDSA) Public Health Committee.

“Vaccines are among the most important public health tools we have. Sadly, myths surrounding vaccines may lead to vaccine avoidance, even though they are not based on scientific research or evidence.”

IDSA is committed to helping parents understand that the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, is safe, effective and vital to public health. To help parents feel confident about vaccinating their child, IDSA explains why the following myths are false:

Myth: The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism.

Fact: There is no evidence that MMR causes autism, but a great deal of evidence that shows it does not cause autism. Many studies have found there is no connection between the two, including recent research that tracked more than 650,000 Danish children and found the MMR vaccine “does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination.”

Myth: There is no measles outbreak.

Fact: An outbreak is defined as three or more cases in a community. There have been seven regional or local measles outbreaks so far in 2019 (and 555 cases of measles total through April 11) and there were 17 outbreaks in 2018 (and 372 measles cases total). While it’s true that there is no nationwide measles outbreak, that’s because more than 90% of Americans are vaccinated, which decreases the likelihood of measles spreading among those who aren’t vaccinated. This is called herd immunity, and it’s important. It provides protection for people who can’t get the vaccine, such as infants who aren’t old enough and people with a weakened immune system, for example if they have HIV/AIDS or cancer. When local vaccination rates are lower than needed for herd immunity, those areas can experience outbreaks if measles is introduced to the community, most often when someone gets measles in a country where the disease is more common and travels to the United States. That’s what we’ve been seeing in recent years. And considering measles is highly contagious, these outbreaks spell trouble. In fact, 9 out of 10 people who aren’t immune and are exposed will get it, making it much more contagious than the flu.

Myth: The spread of measles can be controlled with proper sanitation.

Fact: While better sanitation (clean water, for example) has decreased the rates of diseases spread through food or water (such as cholera and typhoid), it has a minimal effect on measles, which is spread person to person and through the air.

Myth: The measles vaccine does not prevent serious illness and death – the number of measles deaths dropped long before the vaccine was introduced and it is no longer deadly.

Fact: The measles vaccine prevents thousands of deaths each year worldwide. The number of measles deaths began decreasing before the vaccine was introduced thanks to advances in health care that improved treatment after people got sick (such as treating pneumonia that occurred because of measles infection). But serious illness and death from measles still happened regularly. In fact, in the 10 years before the vaccine was available in 1963, about 500 measles-related deaths were reported to the CDC every year. Since the vaccine, U.S. measles-related deaths have been increasingly rare – because the vaccine has prevented people from getting measles in the first place. The most recent U.S. death occurred in 2015. Worldwide, there was an 84 percent decrease in measles deaths between 2000 and 2016 as the vaccine became more widely available – meaning more than 20 million deaths were prevented.

Myth: The measles vaccine can be deadly.

Fact: There have been no deaths shown to be related to the vaccine in healthy people. There have been rare cases of deaths from vaccine side effects among children who are immune compromised, which is why it is recommended that they don’t get the vaccine. That’s why it is so important that everyone who can get vaccinated does so, to protect those who can’t. There are possible side effects from the vaccine, including sore arm (from the shot), fever, mild rash, temporary pain/stiffness in the joints, and a very small risk of febrile seizures or allergic reaction. Vaccines undergo a scientifically rigorous research and vetting process before they are approved. Getting the vaccine is much safer than getting measles.

Myth: The MMR vaccine can cause measles.

Fact: The vaccine does not cause measles. While the vaccine is made from a live virus, it is weakened so that it doesn’t cause the disease, but rather causes your immune system to recognize the virus and develop immunity to it. Because their immune system is working hard after vaccination, some children who get the vaccine can have mild symptoms such as a fever or rash, but it’s not measles, just the body building immunity to the measles virus so that they don’t get sick if they’re ever exposed.

A digital version of this measles fact sheet can be downloaded here. For more information about the measles visit, www.idsociety.org/measles..

Source:Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)

Photo Credit:Storyblocks.com

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