03 July 2019

Why Get Vaccinated for Measles?

Welcome back. I think I had measles; I must have. Just about every kid got measles before a vaccine became available in 1963. 

Getting vaccinated (from
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that before the measles vaccination program began an estimated 3 to 4 million people were infected annually in the U.S. Widespread vaccinations have reduced measles cases by 99%.

Measles Can Be Serious
Measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases. Transmitted by direct contact with droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons or by airborne spread when an infected person breathes or coughs, the virus can remain in the air or on contaminated surfaces as long as 2 hours. Up to 90% of the people in contact with an infected person will catch the disease if they’re not protected.

In addition to a fever and rash, complications can be severe, especially for those younger than 5 years and older than 20 years. Ear infections and diarrhea are common, and serious complications include pneumonia and encephalitis (brain swelling). In the U.S., about 1 in 5 unvaccinated people who get measles are hospitalized.

Of measles-infected children in the U.S., as many as 1 out of 20 develops pneumonia; about 1 out of 1,000 will develop encephalitis that can lead to convulsions and leave the child deaf or brain damaged; and nearly 1 to 3 out of 1,000 will die from respiratory and neurologic complications.

In developing countries, measles is even more serious, particularly for malnourished children with vitamin A deficiency. The rate of death may be as high as 25%. In Africa, the disease is a leading cause of blindness in children.

Effectiveness of measles, mumps,
 rubella vaccine
(from ABC News).
Added Benefits of Measles Vaccine
Getting vaccinated almost ensures you’ll avoid several days of being ill, possible complications up to and including death and that you won’t spread the disease. If that’s not enough, there’s more, as shown in a recent study by researchers from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy; Johns Hopkins, Pennsylvania and Harvard universities; and RTI International.

The researchers compared long-term survey data on children, ages 7-8 years and 11-12 years, who had or had not been vaccinated at age 6-18 months.

The data were collected on approximately 2,000 children in each of three countries, Ethiopia, India and Vietnam. The specific measurements analyzed were height-for-age, body mass index (BMI)-for-age, weight-for-age, Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT), Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), language and math tests, and attained school grade.

Overall, the study found that being vaccinated in infancy was associated with long-term health, cognition and schooling benefits in each country.

At ages 7-8 years, for example, measles-vaccinated children had higher height-for-age scores in India, higher BMI-for-age and weight-for-age scores in Vietnam, higher PPVT and math scores in Ethiopia and Vietnam, and higher EGRA scores and school grades in all countries.

Similarly, at ages 11-12 years, measles-vaccinated children had higher BMI-for-age scores in Vietnam, higher English and PPVT scores in India, and higher school grades in all countries.

Wrap Up
All this sort of makes me angry at celebrities and politicians that slam vaccines. More so when an online survey by The Harris Poll for the American Osteopathic Association finds that 45% of the 2,007 U.S. adults surveyed have doubts about vaccine safety. Not all of that doubt can be attributed to the anti-vaccination movement, of course, but I expect much of it can if you dig a bit. (I touched on anti-vaxxers in my blog post Conspiracy Theories, Continued).

Responses of 2,007 U.S. adults in online survey conducted 28-30 May 2019 by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association (from www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/204458.php).
On the flip side, the survey also found 82% of those surveyed think vaccines are safe and effective or that the benefits outweigh the risks. While that seems pretty good, measles requires 90% to 95% of the population to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity--protection for individuals who cannot be vaccinated.

I’d better leave it there before I get angrier. Thanks for stopping by.

Selected CDC articles on measles:
World Health Organization fact sheet on measles: www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles
Study of measles vaccination benefits in the journal Vaccine: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X19307868
Article on study on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/cfdd-mvl062019.php
Article on Harris Poll survey on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/aoa-4oa062419.php

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