Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018
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EDITORIAL

Anti-vaxxers threaten everyone

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Vaccine skepticism, not the vaccines themselves, is the real threat to public health.

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A new report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows a slight increase in vaccine waiver rates for school-age children.

A 0.1 percent decrease in the number of Michigan children getting vaccinated might sound relatively insignificant, but these children can have an effect greatly disproportionate to their small numbers. Parents who opt not to immunize their children against preventable diseases don’t put only those kids at risk. The decision endangers the health and potentially the lives of everyone they come into contact with.

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A team of researchers from Stanford University and Baylor College of Medicine demonstrated the phenomenon this year by simulating a 2 percent drop in the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine’s rate of administration for children aged 2 to 11. The team’s data indicated that this small decline would result in a tripling of annual measles cases in this age group. 

Measles is a painful, highly contagious illness that can carry serious and even fatal complications. The disease infected millions of children in the U.S. before the vaccine was created in 1963; since then, the annual number of cases has dropped below 100. 

But in just one outbreak in one state this summer, there were more measles cases than there were nationally the whole year prior. The cause was a sharp drop in the rate of MMR vaccinations among the Somali community in Minnesota, whom the anti-vaccination movement had decided to target. These vaccine-wary parents, like their counterparts nationwide, tend to live in clusters, a pattern that makes the potential for large outbreaks much more likely.

So: vaccinate your kids. The link between shots and autism has been repeatedly and conclusively debunked by over a decade of scientific research into the matter. Vaccine skepticism, not the vaccines themselves, is the real threat to public health.

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