Although measles was eradicated in the United States thanks to vaccines in 2000, the disease is once again back and causing a lot of problems, especially for those who are too young to receive their vaccinations.
According to the CDC 2018 saw the second highest recorded cases of measles in the US since 2000, with 349 recorded cases across 26 different states and the District of Columbia. Currently, New York is experiencing its own outbreak, with NBC reporting there have been 170 reported cases in the state alone since last September.
Even though it has been said that the disease has been reintroduced to the US public thanks to travelers who have visited countries where the disease is prominent, doctors are blaming those who refuse to vaccinate their children on why the disease is spreading so quickly.
2018 saw the 2nd-greatest annual number of US #measles cases since 1996. 1 reason: 81 unvaccinated travelers (mostly US residents) got measles abroad & brought it to the US where it spread. Ensure you’re protected against measles before traveling. https://t.co/czlSryEK9e pic.twitter.com/OLuXPBQ3JI— CDC (@CDCgov) January 18, 2019
“There’s only one reason for the resurgence of measles, and that’s people not getting their immunizations,” American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Dr. Andrew Bernstein told Healthline. He's not alone in his feelings either. Dr. Sara Bhargava Vora, assistant professor in the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital, agrees with Dr. Bernstein.
“The majority of people who get measles in these outbreaks are unvaccinated,” she told Healthline. “Although overall vaccination rates remain high in the U.S., unfortunately, there are pockets of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children due to vaccine-hesitant parents and exemptions for various reasons.”
For this reason, New York has begun to accelerate the immunization schedule for babies, to try to ensure they are protected against this latest outbreak. On a typical vaccine schedule, a baby would be given their first dose of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) at one year of age, with the second dose following at or before 4 years of age. New York is recommending that babies as young as 6 months receive their first dose of the vaccine with the second dose following as soon as a month later.
Dr. Bernstein explained that many parents who opt out of vaccines for their kids are not doing the proper homework to know why vaccines are so important. "There’s a ton of misinformation on the internet, and echo chambers occur,” Bernstein stated to Healthline. “People talk to others who already agree with them. I don’t think they’re bad people. They are trying to do what they think is best for their child. But they don’t have the scientific understanding or the medical background to understand what is going on.”
What's going on is that herd immunity used to protect those who were either too young to receive their vaccines, who were immune-compromised or those for whom the vaccine wasn't effective isn't as effective anymore. With so many people opting out of vaccinating it's affecting the ability to stop a few cases from turning in to an outbreak.
"That’s why herd immunity is so important," Bernstein said. "Even if not everyone can be protected by the vaccine, if enough people are, the virus can’t get a foothold in that community.”
New York pediatrician Dr. Douglas Puder told NBC this is why they are urging parents to have their babies vaccinated. "We have brought in every child six months and older to give them an MMR,” Puder said. “We have been bringing the one-year-olds back at 13 months to get a second dose,” Puder said. “It’s up to us to keep this from spreading. This could become a truly major epidemic.”