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Why measles is back

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Anti-vaxxers shouldn’t be blamed for the latest epidemic

Infectious diseases are like economic cycles. They ebb and flow over time, and our health guardians take the credit when they seem to vanish, just as politicians take the plaudits, and our votes, when there’s an economic boom.

The World Health Organization (WHO) likes to feed into this false narrative by awarding “elimination status” badges to nations that appear to have beaten a virus. In 2000, the WHO gave the US a badge for having eliminated measles, and the UK won one in 2017, and again in 2021 for good measure. To win the award, a nation must demonstrate that there hadn’t been any cases the previous year.

Measles is back. The UK has declared a national emergency, and so has almost every nation around the world. It’s all because children aren’t vaccinated, say our health guardians.

There’s been a drop from the magical 95 percent vaccine coverage rate necessary to stop a virus in its tracks, and in some areas of the UK, the MMR take-up rate is down to 85 percent. Around 3.4 million children in the UK are unvaccinated, according to NHS England.

The blame game has started. Slap bang in the cross hairs are those pesky anti-vaxxers who have sown the seeds of doubt through their misinformation and conspiracy theories. The London Times has ranted that the measles outbreak is caused by “disease disinformation” from anti-vaxxers who have waged “irresponsible and immoral campaigns.”

More moderate voices have blamed the outbreak on Covid-19 and on the shift in focus from measles management and other childhood viruses. America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that 61 million MMR vaccine doses were canceled from 2020 to 2022 as doctors became almost impossible to see and a visit to a clinic required military precision.

The argument has a satisfying cause-and-effect symmetry: fewer children were vaccinated, ergo there were more cases. But there are underlying issues at play too; for one, the biggest US measles outbreak happened in 2019—when Covid was still a twinkle in the eye of a Wuhan researcher and vaccine status was close to the 95 percent coverage.

That year, 1,300 cases were reported, and the CDC blamed it on the fact that “people were traveling.” But don’t people travel every year, even in those years when there aren’t any measles cases?

Instead, it points to the wave theory: whatever we do, epidemics can recur and viruses that were thought to be eliminated pop up again. Certainly their virulence can be curbed through good hygiene and sanitation and a healthy diet and vitamins (measles is essentially a disease of vitamin A deficiency) that support a strong immune response, but ebb and flow they surely will.

There’s also the idea of vaccine fatigue. People have vaccine burnout from the relentless campaign to get everyone vaccinated against Covid and, having done so, to then line up for a second jab, and then a booster just to be sure. And while you’re about it, have that seasonal flu jab as well.

But there’s one other factor that is euphemistically called “vaccine hesitancy.” The vaccine propaganda during the Covid outbreak worked for a while, but people started noticing they had been lied to. Not only didn’t the vaccine stop people catching the virus, it also didn’t prevent them from infecting others who may have been more vulnerable.

The vaccines were also not quite as safe as health guardians had assured us they would be. The CDC knew the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna raised the risk of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, in 2021—just months after the vaccines had been rolled out—but sat on the data because it didn’t want to cause national panic, the Epoch Times has reported.

That decision is “not only inexcusable, it’s malpractice,” said Ron Johnson, a Republican on the US Senate’s Homeland Security subcommittee.1

Provisional figures released by the UK’s MHRA Adverse Event reporting service illustrate the consequences of failing to alert the public. By the end of last year, there had been 1.66 million reactions to one of the Covid vaccines in the UK, of which 75 percent were “serious,” suggesting they were life-threatening or life-altering. There were also 2,633 deaths.

So, perhaps vaccine misinformation is to blame for the decline in the MMR vaccination rate after all. But it’s not coming from the anti-vaxxers; it’s from our governments.

What do you think? Start a conversation over on the... WDDTY Community

1. Zachary Steiber, “Exclusive: Email Reveals Why CDC Didn’t Issue Alert on COVID Vaccines and Myocarditis,” Jan 25, 2024,
Article Topics: measles
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