Terry H. Schwadron
Feb. 10, 2019
So far, we’ve been looking at an outbreak of measles, a disease supposedly conquered and dead in the United States across Washington State, as a medical issue.
With 56 cases to date, most affecting unvaccinated children under 10, Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of medical emergency. What’s behind this is a renewed discussion, a social rebellion if you will, about the sense among a growing number of parents that the vaccination involved might be worse than the illness.
That debate, though, quickly gives way to a fight over individual rights against state interests, over parental rights, and over the widening disbelief in our institutions altogether, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.
That makes it more than a discussion about who might be more correct about medical details — and more about politics and public policy-making.
When a state or a country decides on an issue as a vaccination schedule for its children, it immediately sets one set of medically skeptical parents, for example, against those whose children go to school with unvaccinated children, exposing them to the contagion. When a state decides to intervene and make that decision a personal one rather than a state policy, it says that Rights supercede acceptable health concerns.
Essentially, that’s the debate we undergo in so many parts of our public society these days. Is abortion a personal decision or a set of legalized state policies that step on individual rights in the name of a particular sense of morality? Is “forcing” everyone in the country to buy or contribute to general health access insurance an abridgement of individual rights, as Republicans argue, or a misplaced practical concern, as Democrats would have it, that gets in the way of health access for all?
Is it really all that different when we do not feel we can believe our institutions about emergencies at the Southern border or about gun safety policies or about whether tax cuts are actually meant to help middle-class taxpayers?
Are the rebels in the vaccination debate under obligation to be correct for me and my kids as well as their own kids? Do we have enough credible information to even decide on the medical effects of a particular vaccination? Or is this rebellion really to be measured as a further deterioration of our desire to believe our institutions.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can result in brain damage, deafness and, in rare cases, death. In 2000, measles was declared eliminated from the United States, thanks to widespread vaccination campaigns. Yet cases have popped up in 11 states so far this winter, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking three outbreaks (defined as three or more confirmed cases) in New York City, New York state and Washington state.
The MMR vaccinefrom Merck, introduced in the United States in 1971 helps prevent the measles, the mumps, and rubella (German measles).But since about 1998, when the Lancer, the British medical journal, published a study linking the vaccine to other serious long-term health risks, including autism and various bowel diseases, parents have moved on their own to organize a campaign to refuse vaccinations. In 2010, Lancet retracted the earlier study, citing unethical practices and incorrect information. Since then, many research studies have looked for a connection between the MMR vaccine and these conditions. No connection has been found.
The state, the Centers for Disease Control, our hospitals, doctors, schools and public health establishment line up on the side of vaccination. Individual parents, now organized, and with the occasional help of various public figures, including some from President Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., say don’t believe the experts.
Vaccination rates around 90% to 95 % are generally enough to prevent an outbreak, according to health officials, but rates have fallen across the United States. But vaccination rates are falling, and one factor is the spread of either misinformation or skepticism, depending on point of view, about the measles vaccine, which is considered safe and effective by health authorities. Vaccination rates in the Pacific Northwest are among the lowest in the nation.
While all school-age children are required to receive the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella, Washington is among the 17 states that allow “philosophical exemptions,” meaning a parent can excuse a child from being vaccinated for virtually any reason.
On Friday, hundreds of parents besieged the Washington State Legislature for a public hearing about a bill that would make it harder for families to opt out of vaccination requirements.
When John Wiesman, the Washington state health secretary, John Wiesman, debunked the anti-vaccine claims, the dissenting murmurs were audible. “I want to remind you that the MMR vaccine is extremely safe and highly effective,” Wiesman told lawmakers. He said that “all reputable scientific studies have found no relation between measles and autism,” and outlined the potential harms of the highly contagious respiratory virus, which can be fatal in small children. fatal in small children.
The bill, which would still allow exemptions for medical and religious reasons, is sponsored by Washington state Rep. Paul Harris, a Republican who represents Clark County, the epicenter of the outbreak just north of Portland, Ore. “This issue activates both my far right and my far left,” he said.
A new report by the World Health Organization warned of a worldwide surge in measles cases in 2018, with 15 times more measles cases in Europe last year than in 2016. For the first time, the WHO listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global threats of 2019.Lawmakers in other states are monitoring what happens in Washington.
Dr. Alan Melnick, director of public health for Clark County, told NPR that the issues in his area were 100% preventable, and warned that a lot of misinformation on social media and elsewhere looks pretty sophisticated.
Lets Make America Believable Again.