Measles Reality Check

Sick girl in the arms of her motherAll parents want to protect their children from suffering, and yet they do so differently. Despite this inevitability, some commentators have used the current measles epidemic as an opportunity to attack those parents who exercise freedom of conscience and freedom of religion and have done so in an especially strident and sensational way.

Writing in Forbes, Dan Diamond titles his piece, “Measles Can Kill And It’s Spreading. Sue Parents Who Didn’t Vaccinate? Absolutely…” Diamond equates measles with Ebola and confuses US measles risks with the worldwide risks.

He also recommends, as you can tell from the title, that “we” sue parents who don’t vaccinate—whether for philosophical, medical, or religious reasons. Plus he states equivocally, as do many, that “…there is no link between the measles vaccine and autism. None. Zero” so it is foolish for parents to question the safety of vaccines.

My local paper, The Santa Fe New Mexican, published an opinion piece by Petula Dvorak, columnist for the Washington Post, entitled “Anti-Vaccination Parents Prove Their Point.” Much of Dvorak’s argument is based on name-calling. Among the names she calls those who choose not to vaccinate are: “organic, cage-free, Buddha-mama, mindful-parents, CDC Barbie; wackadoodle, fruitarian, and Bokonoistic,” and those who do not keep up perfectly with the vaccine schedule are categorized as “disorganized, and do-nothing parents.” Dvorak concludes, “Refusing to immunize puts the rest of us at risk.” But, does it?

HOW DID THE MEASLES EPIDEMIC BEGIN?

Contrary to popular reports in the media, the current measles epidemic did not start in Disneyland—though an outbreak occurred there—but in the Amish community in Ohio, with a missionary recently back from the Philippines. In fact, since 1993, most reported cases of measles have been directly or indirectly linked to international travel, and many have been in adults.

Endemic measles has been eliminated in the US since 2000, but travelers can bring measles to the US from countries with measles epidemics, such as the Philippines in 2014.

WHAT IS THE STATUS OF MEASLES IN THE US?

Prior to the introduction of the single dose measles vaccination in 1963, there were about 500,000 cases of measles a year and 500 deaths (1 in 1,000 cases). Infection with measles virus was nearly universal during childhood, and more than 90% of persons were immune by age fifteen.

Between 1989 and 1991, a second dose of the vaccine was added and since 1997 the incidence of measles has remained below one case per million. During the recent 2014 epidemic 644 cases were reported, the highest number in nearly 20 years. Since 1995, an average of one measles-related death per year has been reported in the US (2.54 and 2.83 deaths per 1000); pneumonia accounts for about 67% of the deaths.

About 30% of measles cases have complications such as diarrhea (8%), ear infections (7%), and pneumonia (6%) and complications are higher among young children and adults.

WORLDWIDE MORTALITY OF MEASLES

The measles virus is one of the leading causes of death among young children worldwide; it is still common and often fatal in developing countries. The World Health Organization estimates that there were 145,700 deaths globally from measles in 2013, about 400 deaths every day. In countries where measles has been eliminated, like the US, cases imported from other countries remain an important source of infection.

THE HEALTH OF THE UNVACCINATED

It is true that the incidence of measles infection is more prevalent among unvaccinated children. However, A 2013 independent German study concluded that, overall, unvaccinated children get sick less often than do vaccinated children. Physicians who work with populations of vaccinated as well as unvaccinated children report that unvaccinated children have more acute illness while vaccinated children have more chronic illness.

Many parents today are more concerned about the risks of chronic disease than the risks of rare acute diseases. In the US, one in 13 children (8%) have food allergies and tree nut allergies among children tripled between 1997 and 2008. Autism has spiked 1,500% in the last 20 years: one in 88 children is on the spectrum: 825,000 in the US; 89,000 in Canada; 131,000 in the UK.

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THE MMR VACCINE, CHRONIC DISEASE AND AUTISM

Parents are not only concerned about the unexplained increase in chronic disease, but specifically about the possibility that vaccines may have contributed to this increase. While an association between the MMR vaccine and autism has been continually debunked by the media, the evidence suggests otherwise.

African-American parents have reason to be especially concerned, as a CDC whistleblower came forward in August of 2014 to question the results of a 2004 study.

My name is William Thompson.  I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I have worked since 1998.

I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.

Parents also worry because of MMR damage claims that have been awarded. In a 2013 landmark decision, Sadid and Parivash Mojabi of San Jose, California were awarded $969.474.91 in compensation for a severe and debilitating brain injury that their son, Ryan, suffered after administration of the MMR vaccine.

In 2012, the Italian court ruled that a child “has been damaged by irreversible complications due to vaccination (prophylaxis trivalent MMR)” and ordered the Ministry of Health to compensate the child with a 15-year annuity and to reimburse the parents for court costs.

Also in 2012, a medical assessment panel found that a Scottish woman was made deaf by the MMR vaccine.

WHO ARE THE NON-VACCINATED?

While articles about the current measles epidemic call into question the integrity of parents who do not vaccinate, Aviva Jill Romm, MD, counters this assumption,

Pediatricians need to let go of this knee-jerk reaction that parents who don’t vaccinate are irresponsible. Many of the parents I know who have chosen not to vaccinate are actually well-educated, active and contributing members of society. They are physicians, educators, people involved in government, law professors, medical professors, and academic professors.

Romm’s experience is borne out by a 2007 study in the American Journal of Public Health that found that low maternal educational levels and low socioeconomic status were associated with high vaccine compliance.

DISEASE CAUSALITY 

While more unvaccinated children will get sick when there’s an epidemic, this does not mean that they can be blamed for starting it. According to Jay Gordon, MD,

When children or babies who have been in contact with other children (or adults) contract most illnesses, there is no feasible way to know from whom they got the disease. Parents must protect [infants too young to have received a full complement of shots and immuno-compromised children] by keeping them away from too many other children.

It’s no coincidence then that the recent outbreak of measles occurred at Disneyland, a place where there are a lot of people and many from other countries.

VACCINE EFFECTIVENESS

We have to tolerate some disease because even when a vaccine is as effective as the measles vaccine, it won’t work for about 2% to 8% of recipients. And, measles vaccine acquired immunity is reported to wane in at least 5% of cases, within 10 to 15 years after vaccination.

A report published in 2012 by the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed 57 clinical trials and studies that involved about 14.7 million children vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Cochrane found that:

Based on the evidence provided by three cohort studies (3104 participants), vaccination with one dose of MMR vaccine is at least 95 percent effective in preventing clinical measles among preschool children; in schoolchildren and adolescents at least one dose of MMR vaccine was 98 percent effective in preventing laboratory-confirmed measles cases; one or two MMR doses were respectively 92 percent and 95 percent effective in preventing secondary measles cases.

And, even though there is no endemic measles in the US, the disease can occur even among a population of 100% vaccinated, suggesting again the possibility that protection can wane over time.

HOW MANY DON’T VACCINATE?

Sometimes it seems as though there are vast numbers of unvaccinated children, but in fact, the numbers are small. The goal of the Healthy People 2020 objectives is 95% MMR vaccination coverage and in 2011, the overall median school vaccination coverage in the US was 94.8%, with a range of 86.8% in Colorado to 99.3% in Texas. For those receiving two doses of the MMR vaccine, the median coverage was 93.2%, with a range of 84.0% in Colorado to 99.2% in Mississippi and Texas.

Out of an estimated total of 4,124,185 kindergarten children, only 89,133 claim vaccine exemptions The median total vaccine exemption level in the US is 1.5%. Exemption levels range from less than 1% in Mississippi to 7% in Alaska. When looked at separately, the rate of nonmedical exemptions is 1.2% with a low of less than 1% in Delaware and Kentucky to 5.8% in Oregon.

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE CAN BE TOLERATED

It’s illogical to blame unvaccinated children for epidemics when they often originate in other countries or are related to the limited effectiveness of vaccinations. While unvaccinated children may have a higher incidence of the disease than their vaccinated counterparts, they cannot be blamed for causing it.

If one concludes that unvaccinated children put others at risk and that their parents should be sued, what is next? Will we sue people who travel to areas with disease? Or, only those who travel unvaccinated? And, if their vaccine status is unknown will we consider them a risk? Will we sue them too? Will we sue vaccine manufacturers because it is impossible to make a vaccine that is 100% effective?

The truth is, that despite our best efforts, disease exists and with it come inevitable differences of opinion and variations in religious practices regarding how best to prevent and treat that disease. With a disease like measles that occurs once in 1,000,000 people in the US, we can certainly tolerate some dissent from vaccination policy without compromising its effectiveness.

For more on this topic, see:

Freedom of Conscience

Kill the Messenger

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 Peggy O'Mara newPeggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering magazine from 1980 to 2011 and the editor-in-chief of Mothering.com from 1995 to 2012.. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.

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Peggy O'Mara

About Peggy O'Mara

Editor and Publisher of peggyomara.com. Longtime natural living advocate, award winning writer, and independent thinker.

139 thoughts on “Measles Reality Check

  1. Melissa

    This makes me want to cry. Thank you for being the first educated voice of reason I have read in the past few days. The amount of ignorant rage and intolerant hatred is so frightening. The finger pointing and death threats are just amazing. I hope that this witch hunt goes away soon.

    Reply
    • Gabriel Guillen

      http://www.morganverkamp.com/august-27-2014-press-release-statement-of-william-w-thompson-ph-d-regarding-the-2004-article-examining-the-possibility-of-a-relationship-between-mmr-vaccine-and-autism/

      you can see how William Thompson was tricked and set up to put doubt of MMR vaccines. He recanted his story. Unfortunately people would rather believe a person with no scientific background when it helps their cause than to use scientific evidence. To put is simply, the barist at Starbucks is not qualified to comment about a CVT transmission as Peggy does not have any medical background to support her personal opinions blaming vaccines for autism. There is not ONE scientific study to demonstrate Peggy’s point of view.

      Reply
      • Peggy O'MaraPeggy O'Mara Post author

        This is the same reference I cited and linked to in my article. While Mr. Thompson is an advocate for vaccines, he did not recant his statement. This link is to his statement of apology for omissions from his 2004 research.

        Reply
      • Danchi

        You must be reading stuff from David Gorski’s Science based blogs and also that ridiculous piece SNOPES wrote. If you did read either, read carefully. Neither sites has any information or documentation to confirm that Dr. Thompson recanted his confession which he hasn’t. Snopes bases their claim on unconfirmed and unseen by the public “emails” that actually lead back to Gorski’s website which leads me to believe this was a joint venture to cast doubt on the authenticity of Dr. Thompson. Gorski and his Minions, as he calls his bloggers , was reporting that Thompson was real, that anti-vaxxers made him up until Thompsons wife contacted Dr. Wakefields wife and that communication was put online. Gorski said it was a fake and he was challenged to prove it however he couldn’t. Thompson is the real deal!

        Reply
    • Maritza

      I feel the same exact way. I’ve even contemplated giving my son the vaccine. Actually I often wonder if I’m making the right decision. It’s all so stressful. At the end of the day we are all parents, who just want to protect our children.

      Reply
  2. Charbswims

    What a great article. Clear data and sources. I read about a number of the cases mentioned and the lawsuits but its nice to have the info in one spot. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Eleonor

    If pediatricians are currently rejecting parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children, a reason must be. They are the ones with the knowledge and who spent years upon years studying and who keep studying to keep up to date with everything. If a professional of the health tells you to vaccinate, someone whose life vocation is to care for others, then just listen.
    Yes, we can blame a lot for the anti-vaccine movement. And is not just the “media debunking” the link between autism and MMR but science as well, there have been plenty of studies and plenty of follow ups, with the most accurate being the Danish one. Let’s quit being ignorant. All the “google research” and “wiki Phds” need to stop.

    Reply
    • marianne

      I must disagree with your assertion that if the doctor recommends it must be the right thing to do. When my children were babies I had physicians tell me such things as “only nurse every four hours” “if you have a fever your milk will curdle” “don’t pick up your newborn every time they cry or you will spoil him” “it might just be a virus, but let’s try these antibiotics just in case”. These are just a few of the tidbits of advice I received from trained medical professionals. As the mother, I had to do what I knew was best for my child regardless of what the doctor recommended. I am not saying whether to vaccinate or not–just pointing out that blind adherence to physician advice is not always the responsible parenting decision

      Reply
    • Eric Potter

      Hello,
      Actually, pediatricians are brainwashed. Speaking as one of the brainwashed, the reason is fear and ignorance. If you think doctors can keep up with the barrage of changes, you are way off base. Pediatricians are WRONG to refuse to care for children who don’t vaccinate. I repeat, fear!
      Eric Potter MD

      Reply
    • RaRa

      A Dr told my mum to take Thalidimide for morning sickness…
      If you are happy for someone to tell you what to do in your life and you choose to trust them implicitly, then thats great for you. I respect your right to make that choice. I personally would rather not, I have spent many hours researching medical journals for articles, not wikipedia, that don’t match up to the same few quoted bits of research that are used by the media time and time again, there are a lot out there, you should take a look…
      There are also articles, published by those big trusted companies and corporations like the CDC that are now being called into question-
      http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lawrence-solomon/merck-whistleblowers_b_5881914.html
      Did you hear about this through your chosen media source? Did your Dr mention to you at your last visit that MERCK are being sued?
      Did your Dr also mention that you can still be an asymptomatic carrier of vaccine preventable diseases now that you are vaccinated?

      I don’t ask that you stop vaccinating, I just for my right to make my own parenting choices.

      Reply
    • Susan

      The reason is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, thanks to the ACA, is punishing providers who do not achieve a 95% or better vaccination rate by reducing reimbursement. It’s money, plain and simple. The same reason hospitals are forcing staff to get flu vaccines every year, even though the CDC’s own research does not support the theory that vaccinating health care staff reduces the incidence of influenza like illness in patients nor does it reduce pneumonia in the same patients. I don’t know what the exact penalty is for private providers, for hospitals it’s a 2% reduction in reimbursement.

      Reply
    • Aimee

      While most pediatricians are knowledgeable, they are not unbiased. You can say the same about your child’s Dr and breastfeeding. My child’s Dr told me when she was 6 days old to give up bfing cause she wasn’t gaining enough.
      I’m a selective vaccination mom. My Dr (new one after I dumped the recently graduated one I had) and I sat down and discussed which ones my children really needed and which they didn’t.

      Reply
    • Jack

      Physicians are taught to blindly trust vaccines and everything else that the pharmaceutical reps bring to their offices in the daily. Being in medical school definitely taught me a lot of things but it also taught me that you are told to just believe what is being taught to you. Well who taught the teaches and so on. Politicians have been educated heavily in foreign policy, economics, etc… So should we just blindly trust and listen to them as well or is that a special exemption. Point is nobody knows everything and with the amount of info you must memorize as a physician you don’t have time to actually understand ramifications of many of the acceptable treatments.

      Reply
    • Bre

      What makes you think a pediatrician has the time or care to know about each individual vaccine? They are told by the manufacturer one thing and follow or hope to follow those guidelines. Do you think a car sales man knows how to build the car he is selling? Some may, while others relay the information that is originally provided to them to seal the deal. It’s no different and those car sales men that know and understand the car or (vaccine educated dr) can help make informed educated decisions much better than someone who has no idea and just reads a physicians desk refrense. Aside from that have you ever thought why if need be your physician send you to a specialist? Because it’s out of their scope of work. Believe me if it were in their scope of work and they have heavily researched it the health world would be completely different.

      Reply
    • Mama S

      I don’t know of any other profession that would be considered all-knowing and deserving of blind faith. A level of skepticism and a responsibility to educate yourself, so that you can engage in a discussion with your pediatrician about what is best for your children, is the least we can do. Our family pediatrician is actually the primary influence in our decision to selectively vaccinate. Every appointment she comes prepared with the latest studies about the risks, effectiveness, likelihood to contract and then pass on the illness, etc. My husband and I come prepared with our own information and questions for her. Yes, if she said that she thought we should vaccinate, we may be swayed on the other direction. I can’t say for sure because she typically advises against vaccination, but empowers us to make the decision based on the facts. My point is that there isn’t unanimous agreement about vaccines amongst medical professionals like you may think. I don’t judge what other parents choose for their kids. I don’t want the government or anyone else telling me what chemicals I am mandated to put into my baby. Anyone that supports the government getting involved in such a mandate should consider the slippery slope they are risking putting us on.

      Reply
    • Rebecca Stevenson

      Well my pediatrician doesn’t recommend them. Who’s right? If a pediatrician said, “you’re fired” I would say, “no, YOU’RE fired because you don’t respect parental rights and that is WAY worse.”

      Reply
    • nelie

      I’m sorry to intrude…I’m a mother of 4 and with my first 2 babies I was the most obedient in what a Dr would tell me.They got their vaccines right in time, went to every check up, asked questions and followed every of the Dr’s advice…I was, supposedly, the most “responsible” parent.At age 1,when I put my baby on whole milk he started getting sick and throw up A LOT…I kept going to the Dr every time he would experience serious symptoms(we got to the point where every 2 weeks we were in the Pediatrician’s waiting room, where the admission lady will know us by name and what was going on with us and feeling sorry for us) This went on for 6 Months…You would think a dr would be able to rule out and tell you what was going on with your sick child AFTER 6 MONTHS.Well, they didn’t…they kept us comming(could be business, could not).No referals for tests, no other advice, just some meds here and there to treat an ear infection or fever or other symptoms…but nothing to rule why he would throw up so often and so much.As a responsible mother, that I was and everyone should be, I started looking for answers myself…The conclusion I came to, was that he was lactose intolerant or allergic.I went on and search how you can find out if you are or not, and I found out that there is even a blood test that can rule it(that simple).Of course, I continue giving him milk, as he needed it…First time he started getting sick we went again to the dr and ASKED to be sent for blood work BECAUSE I THINK HE MIGHT BE ALLERGIC TO MILK.She looked at me with shock and said nothing else but sent us for the test.That was exactly the problem.As I mention, my first 2 kids had all their vaccines right on time, after every time they would have them, they felt awfull…high fever, crying a lot, being restless…At age 3, they were identified with developmental delays, in autistic spectrum, even ADHD.I was a responsible mom, so I took the lead in raising my kids…Delayed the vaccines for my 3rd child…and after he got a good dose of them when he was 18 months old, from the most calm and sweet baby you could see, I heard the most heartfelt cries…in few days I couldn’t recognize him.Something was badly bothering him…Never vaccinated any of them since then, and I can’t be happier…I used some kind of clay bath to detoxify their bodies and eliminate the heavy metals(that are contained in vaccines as preservatives and in other forms around us) and thank the Lord I was smart enough to not trust everything it flies around, in special count 100% on Dr’s oppinion.Do you know when I last have them sick?? I don’t remember! When I had my 4th baby, he got none of them, and he is the healthiest kid I had…He’s 7 and can’t even recall when he was sick with a cold, flu, anything…same with the others after I stopped vaccination.Most of all, the youngest 2 are perfectly fine,no signs of any cronical ilness, or disorders. Am I not scared of the possibility they might get sick and deal with it, sometimes…of course, but when I decided to not vaccinate I made a choice in between having my kids immune to some deseases that MIGHT put their life at risk, or to put their entire life at risk by affecting their brains.Only if you have a child that has one of these awefull conditions(like autism, ADHD, etc…) that there is not cure found for them, only then you can understand why it’s better to risk than to sacrifice.We should all be free to decide what’s best for ourselves, isn’t that what this country stands for?

      Reply
      • Alliena Shipley

        Nelie – How have you gotten around the school aspect in having no vaccines? I have done some research on getting them “waived” I guess you could say, but I haven’t had much luck. I have a daughter who is four and I am a single mother. If I could home-school, I would. And I’m not in an area that has any sort of co-op parenting school.
        I didn’t vaccinate her when she was first born. And…this is very hard for me to admit, but, even though I felt I was doing wrong, I recently got the ones she needed just to go to school. I need to find another way around this.
        If I had more family support I feel it would be a lot easier…but I don’t have any. They are all against me on this.

        Reply
    • Alexa

      The most accurate being the Danish one? You know Dr Poul Thorson is on the international most wanted list don’t you? But we can definitely trust his data

      Reply
    • Cynthia Raiser Jeavons

      I absolutely agree – we should stop being ignorant. If you wish to abdicate your personal responsibility for your health and for the health of your children, you have the right to do so. You can give your responsibility to your Doctor. But to say that parents who have taken their responsibility seriously to ask the hard questions, who have taken the time to learn answers themselves and to make choices based on what they have learned…. to call these parents ignorant is…. just closed-minded and ignorant. It is the people who search for a better way that have continually improved the world. Humankind’s knowledge is not static, thankfully! Those that care are continually in search of a better way. This is how and why health knowledge evolves. And we are all players in this evolution. Medical knowledge evolves in reaction to people’s concerns… And there are important and unanswered questions about the safety of current vaccination toxic ingredients, live viruses, as well as the significantly increased number of vaccinations recommended to children, and these in conjunction with the ever increasing amount of toxic pesticides that our food is doused with, increasing synergistic toxicity which affects our children’s health.

      Reply
    • Riverundine

      My pediatrician, who has spent his career studying how vaccines work and how the body works and has published many papers on these topics, recommends against vaccinating. I do trust his wealth of knowledge and his advise.

      Reply
  4. Pam Stearns

    Thank you, Peggy, for this thoughtful and well-researched article. My daughter-in-law sent it to me and many others. I hope it sheds light on this topic which has become sensationalized out of all proportion. It’s shocking how many otherwise reasonable people have been drawn into an over reaction to the few cases of U.S. measles. Our daughter’s school district in Mill Valley (Marin County, California with two new cases) is threatening to remove unvaccinated students from school.

    Reply
  5. Kari Aist

    Thank you for your well written, thorough commentary on this hot topic. I appreciate that you have taken the time to add your insight into the public discussion of this matter.

    Reply
  6. Zoey O'Toole

    Good, reasonable article, but you have at least one fact that is so far off I want to make sure it’s corrected. Prior to 1993 there were approximately 500,000 REPORTED cases of measles per year. The CDC acknowledges that there were more likely 3-4 MILLION cases per year, but the vast majority were unreported because no one cared. That puts the death rate at about a tenth of what you have. “Before 1963, approximately 500,000 cases and 500 deaths were reported annually, with epidemic cycles every 2–3 years. However, the actual number of cases was estimated at 3–4 million annually. More than 50% of persons had measles by age 6, and more than 90% had measles by age 15. The highest incidence was among 5–9-year-olds, who generally accounted for more than 50% of reported cases.” http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/meas.html

    Reply
  7. Lu

    Yes, unvaccinated children get sick less often than other children because their frightened parents hover over them, & seclude them for fear of everything! We have come so far, why introduce something like measles back into the population? Unvaccinated children help an epidemic begin again. What a shame!

    Reply
    • Susan

      You’re kidding right? My unvaccinated grandchildren play in the dirt, play at preschool and at Sunday school, play at school. They are most certainly NOT coddled nor hovered over. Except by their very large dogs. And they don’t go to the doctor.

      I’ve had the measles BTW, as has my oldest son, and we were both vaccinated. Even when you are vaccinated you can still get measles, and mumps, and rubella. It’s not well known but it is fact.

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    • Chelsea

      That’s a generalization, and you didn’t read because she stated that unvaccinated get sick more often multiple times in the article. Both you and Peggy are wrong, and generalizing. I do not hover fearing everything over my child, I should actually hover more probably. I’ve never stressed super hygiene and we don’t vaccinate. And despite what Peggy says my child doesn’t get sick. One ear infection, one fungal infection, one stomach flu, a few colds, and ten (yes literally ten) chickenpox bumps in 10 years. No vaccines….but the vaccinated children all around us…..sick multiple times a year! I had three types of measles as a kid in the 80s so did my whole neighborhood…we are all still alive. Modern medicine, clean water, and breast feeding are wonderful…the places that suffer deaths are in highly undeveloped and poorly sanitized parts of the world…if the US was living like a third world country but with vaccinated children we’d still have as many cases almost as they do, and I’m sure our deaths would be up their too. 85 cases reported from Disneyland out of a 365 million person country???!!!!?? This is hardly something to blink about

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    • Tara

      How specifically can you prove that unvaccinated children help an epidemic begin again? I am certainly not a frightened parent, but rather an educated individual who has poured myself into hours of research and discussion with my spouse over the choice of whether or not to vaccinate our children. Our children are not secluded. Furthermore, perhaps our children get sick less often because we are purposeful, thoughtful and intentional about the choices we make in regards to health. We value health. We take care of our bodies mentally and physically by exercising regularly, eating healthy real foods, getting adequate sleep and taking steps to reduce stress in our lives.

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      • adam

        Well you are being silly if you think it has to be proven that unvaccinated kids can start an epidemic. Even with a 5% failure (or whatever you want to call it) rate of a vaccine, its obvious that if an epidemic were to begin an unvaccinated person is more likely to have been involved (if there is a 5% you could get it with a vaccine and 100% if you didn’t get a shot). But no point in arguing that because my point is this:

        The real fact that the anti-vac crowd seems to never talk about isnt the start of a possible epidemic – its the spread. Because there is a possibility of say the measles being brought into the US from literally anywhere these days it is the containment and spread of disease that health officials and the general public must deal with. The higher the rate of vaccination in a population the less an epidemic will spread and the easier it is to contain. That is a fact. No one can argue it.

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    • Lillian

      You can’t be serious, can you? My children are vaccinated, and they do everything a vaccinated child does. Our choice in stopping vaccinations are based on our experiences with them in the past and their effects on our children. Also, you still can get sick with vaccinations. When I was a teen I still got chickenpox from my cousin, and we both were vaccinated.

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    • Rebecca

      My unvaccinated children are constantly in the Y childcare, in church nursery and they are there way more often than all other kids. Because they are healthy. NO I do not hover over them in any way. I don’t even make them wash their hands before they eat. Nice assumption.

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    • zoya888

      LOL! That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard all week. Educate yourself, Lu. I have. I refuse to be a germ-o-phobe, but I know my kids are ok because I make sure they eat a healthy, traditional diet of real, unprocessed food. We also avoid antibiotics and drink plenty of raw, completely unprocessed milk and healthy pastured meats and eggs. My 6 year old has never needed to have a cavity filled. When I heard about those crazies who don’t vaccinate, I started to educate myself and arm myself with actual researched knowledge, so that I would be able to argue my point intelligently and not blather a bunch of dumb crap. The only problem is that, the more I learned, the more I realized that my prior “knowledge” had been just a bunch of assumptions based on what society told me and I mistook for facts. And suddenly I found myself among the unvaccinated crazy parents. So I’ll stay here and be “crazy” and “shame”-ful with my healthy kids with fully functioning immune systems.

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    • sk

      That is certainly an UNTRUE statement! I have 4 children. 1 who was completely vaccinated, 1 who had a few shots. And 2 who are unvaxed. My unvaxed kids rarely get sick. The partially vaxed has asthma and breathing issues as well as Aspergers and my oldest completely vaxed child catches everything! We DO NOT hide from the world, we are out in it everyday and also travel across the country several times a year. I have seen firsthand the difference in health of a vaccinated vs unvaccinated child. There are many ways to ward off disease and boost your natural immunity without adding the toxins that come with vaccinations.

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    • sarah

      I take my unvaxxed 21 month old daughter to the gym daycare every other day and church nursery and many other places! I am not afraid to bring her places because she is extremely healthy! And this goes for all my friends that don’t vaxx!

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    • Catherine

      I don’t vax my child and I don’t hover or keep her away from other children. I don’t know who told you non-vaxing parents do that. We go everywhere together; storytime (b&n), the library, music together, play date at the park, and I run a daycare. You are way off base!

      Reply
    • christina

      LU, Thank you for exactly confirming the point of the article. I opted for a partial vaccination for my kids and I am at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to hovering, seclusion and fear. My happy, healthy kids are outdoors constantly getting into “icky” things. We hike, camp, swim in nature and all sorts of animals are in our lives. We have active social lives that take us well beyond the four walls that might “protect” them.

      Reply
    • Charbswims

      Oh Lu, tell yourself what you need to to get through the day but please keep this ignorant dribble to yourself. Parents of unvaxed kids dont live in fear of illness nor do they hover. Quite the opposite as most of us are very well educated and do not run to the pharmacy every time our kids get a runny nose. We know how to treat our kids without compromising their health and a lot of us can and will take our kids to the Dr for a diagnosis/confirmation as again, we are not ignorant fools but highly in tune, intelligent people who dont live in fear.

      Reply
      • AP

        Yeah Adam, you probably won’t find anything supporting what she is saying on the first, second or third pages of Google. Does that make it quackery? That’s kind of the point of the article

        Reply
  8. Kristina

    We’ll written article and of course a difficult topic to discuss. However, I’m dissapointment in your sources. Where are the long term peer reviewed research sources that confirm the undeniable benefits of vaccination? Your first ‘German’ study is an isolated, small, study posted on an anti vax website. I can’t help but wonder how, in 2015, anyone can take articles like this seriously? And in quoting ‘ratio’ data you oversimplify the potential downward spiral of more serious outbreaks if parents keep refusing vaccinations. Talk to your parents and grandparents. Kids died of measles! Regularly enough for them to remember! Lest we forget and be the fortunate few who suffer the loss of a child over misinformation such as this.

    Reply
    • Peggy O'MaraPeggy O'Mara Post author

      I had measles, rubella, and mumps as a child as did all my friends. It was common and none of these diseases were considered life threatening when I was growing up. I never remember ever hearing of anyone dying of measles then. I don’t want to discount the fact that measles is often fatal in developing countries, but I’m simply not frightened by it myself based on my own experience in the US.

      Reply
      • C Hanson

        How many of the people you knew were hospitalized, had hearing or vision loss, had seizures? Just living through something is not enough. Also, “your experience” is no more valid than any one person’s experience. Someone else could post about those who DID die. Also, back when measles were common, parents often didn’t tell kids bad news, opting for instance to say a pet “ran away” rather than died. Did you have any friends who “moved” about the time they had measles? Some of them may have died or had other serious complications, in a day when disabled children did not attend mainstream schools.

        Reply
    • Jag

      I noticed the biased sources too, and I can’t say that the sources given are very convincing. This article is biased, so any credibility is thrown out the window. I’m sure anti-vaxers love it though because they cling to any supporters, even ones that only present one-sided facts.

      Reply
  9. Kristen

    If a school elects to remove unvaccinated children, what are they hoping to gain by it? If the rest of the student population is vaccinated, then they should have no fear of ever contracting or spreading it, if the vaccine is effective. What a stupid and hysterical threat.

    Reply
    • Tom

      The vaccine has only a 95% success rate. There’s no such thing as “no fear” of contracting measles from someone who has it. And there’s nothing stupid or hysterical about it.

      Reply
  10. Michelle

    I’m so relieved to see an oasis of sane, rational discussion on the subject. Prior to reading this, I was flabbergasted at the sudden influx of irrational hatred, fearmongering, and actual outright threats pouring into the media (largely from people who seem not to have even been participating in the discussion prior). Thank you for recognizing that vaccination can be anything but a simple decision for many families.

    Reply
  11. Jerri

    Peggy, I have followed you and learned so much over the almost 30 years. Your’s is the first sane voice in this ridiculous conversation. Thank you as always for being the clear voice of reason and choice.

    Reply
  12. Tonya

    I have seen a lot of people on here commenting that non vaccinated children/people are responsible for spreading measles. Why are vaccinated people afraid of unvaccinated people? I believe thats why you had the virus injected into your body in the first place, so you would be afraid of someone who chose not to. There was also someone who said not to question doctors just do what they say? How crazy are you? Learn to read and do research for yourself, ask for more then one opinion. You should NOT believe it just because someone says it, they should show you proof of what they say but that would take to much time and they have another person waiting to put poison in there body, so you should just do it right now because I said so. ?For shame on those who look down on people who make a different choice. Why get the vaccination if you are still afraid of getting what ever you are being vaccinated for?

    Reply
    • C Hanson

      For the umpteenth time, because SOME people cannot BE vaccinated. Like infants, for instance. I’m sure the parents of at least some of the infants who DID contract measles at Disneyland had no idea that someone would come there who had the disease.

      I guess until measles becomes common again and more people start to know firsthand of the consequences it can have, you anti-vaxxers will not be happy.

      Reply
  13. Molly

    The best commentary I have read regarding the current situation. Factual, referenced and unbiased. Well done, Peggy!

    Reply
  14. Laur Weinstock

    Thank you Peggy, not only for the splendid, down-to-earth article here, but for a life of service to mothers and others through Mothering Magazine. I believe my children are healthier because a) they were breast-fed, b) they were given the healthiest food I could afford and was available, c) we read to them, we sang, we encouraged creativity, they played outside, their exposure to television was limited. My son who had a weaker immune system has had his annual winter cold. That’s right- just one, once a year.
    What is a real shame in our society today is the quickness with which people look to blame, to point fingers, to decide someone is in the wrong. I had measles as a child. My children had measles. In fact my oldest child developed what the nurse called a “low-grade” type of measles after receiving the measles vaccine. And he was given the vaccine despite having a neurological disorder that should have made him ineligible for that vaccine and others.
    We seem to have become a less kind, less compassionate society. I believe in small groups and small communities we can share our values and our commitment to our children and each other and those to come by living our ideals as best we can. I’m proud of my mothering. And I appreciated Mothering Magazine along the way!

    Reply
  15. rosesmama

    This makes me want to cry, too. In the 1960s, when I was 6, I had measles. I was unconscious for 3 days with a fever of 105F. The doctor and my parents feared I would die. In the 1940s, when my father had measles, he had one on his eye and became functionally blind in that eye, a disability that effected many of his decisions for the rest of his life. In the 1800s, measles wiped out 80% of the native population of Maui. Unvaccinated children are not a the problem. Willful, selfish, immature parents who think that reading Parenting magazine makes them more intelligent than the scientific community are the problem. It isn’t a question of freedom. It is a question of privilege. Ask yourself, if it were your own child who was burning up with fever, would you want them to have a vaccine, or would you want them to die? What would your answer be?

    Reply
  16. rosesmama

    This makes me want to cry, too. In the 1960s, when I was 6, I had measles. I was unconscious for 3 days with a fever of 105F. The doctor and my parents feared I would die. In the 1940s, when my father had measles, he had one on his eye and became functionally blind in that eye, a disability that effected many of his decisions for the rest of his life. In the 1800s, measles wiped out 80% of the native population of Maui. Unvaccinated children are not a the problem. Willful, selfish, immature parents who think that reading Mothering magazine makes them more intelligent than the scientific community are the problem. It isn’t a question of freedom. It is a question of privilege. Ask yourself, if it were your own child who was burning up with fever, would you want them to have a vaccine, or would you want them to die? What would your answer be?

    Reply
    • Rebecca

      Every single parent who makes the decision they make does so because they want to protect their child. People who vaccinate want to protect their child. People who don’t vaccinate want to protect their child. Calling mothers who decide differently from you selfish, willful and immature is selfish and immature. And mothering magazines don’t have the articles against vaccines because THEY ARE BIASED AND NEVER TELL THE OTHER SIDE. I have NEVER seen an unbiased article in a magazine. I had to spend HOURS/DAYS/YEARS searching for REAL evidence to have a good, scientific reason for myself, our doctor and you people calling me stupid. That is not immature. Immature is falling in line, obeying the money-crazed pharmaceutical companies who couldn’t care less about my child. Drinking the koolaid.

      To be honest, if my child had a fever (and they have), yes, I would want to take it away from them. But inserting toxins in my child that produces temporary, non-lifelong immunity is not the way I would be willing to do it. Giving them healthy foods and vitamins is a huge way to give their bodies a fighting chance. Something the 1800s in maui didn’t have. No one love my children more than I do. If you think I’m selfish to love my children more than the neighbors’ children, then fine, I’ll give you that one.

      Reply
      • K

        You are all over the place. “It’s the pharma companies! It’s the Mother magazines they’re biased! It’s vitamins, that’s the only thing that works!” Here is a little tidbit. It doesn’t matter how many Flintstones vitamins you feed your children, it will not build up the antibodies needed to protect them from Rubella, Mumps, or Measles. They aren’t mutually exclusive either, you can feed your kids vitamins while protecting them with a vaccine. Oh and when it comes to selfishness, putting your children and other children at risk for your own ignorant peace of mind is extremely selfish.

        Reply
  17. Martha Hartney

    Thank you for this, Peggy. Another element to add to this conversation is the immunity that vaccine manufacturers enjoy from garden variety products liability. In 1986, Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act immunizing pharmaceutical companies from suits brought by people who were harmed by their products due to a wave of lawsuits in the 60s and 70s that drove many manufacturers from the business. The fact that so many companies shied away from research and development of new vaccines at that time indicates that the market forces that apply to vaccines was pressuring them to do a better job. However, rather than do a better job, the pharmaceutical industry convinced Congress to simply immunize them against their own problems.

    We do not see a lot of information on vaccine risk because we have no actual forum for debate over it. Courts are not available to citizens to piece out whether an incident was caused by a vaccine or not. No testimony is given, no decisions reached, no awards given. In the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is merely a reporting system, not an investigative or conclusive system. Were companies liable to suit as EVERY other industry in the U.S., we could well see more transparency over the risks–and possibly even more compliance from those who choose not to vaccinate.

    Chemists, biologists, and the other scientific and business minds working on vaccines are motivated by a deep desire to make the world a healthier place. However, the profit motive, where not bridled by normal market conditions, has co-opted those brilliant minds for the corporate purpose–to make their shareholders money.

    Let’s let vaccine makers have to defend themselves in court, just like any other company and see what happens.

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  18. Kristina

    Will someone please explain to me why parents of vaccinated children care whether or not other children are vaccinated? IOW, why do they feel so threatened? I’m honestly confused by all the passion surrounding unvaccinated kids. Please enlighten me.

    Reply
    • Tom

      Because the vaccine has only a 95% success rate. In a classroom of 30 kids, one unvaccinated kid getting measles will give it to two others.

      Reply
    • joanne

      I have a six month old. He cannot have the MMR vaccine yet. If he is exposed to measles at this age by an unvaccinated child who contracts it, he will get very sick and could die. Get it!?

      Reply
        • Jag

          I have a 2 month old, and the odds of her getting it are 90% if she is around anyone with it. She will be with it traveling around again. I know deaths are low from it, but let’s not simply dismiss the low number who do die. That could be my baby, and I would be devastated. The other illnesses that went up when vaccines were implemented weren’t even diagnosed much before then. If they were starting to get diagnosed (autism, ADHD, etc.), there would obviously be an increase. Also, technology plays a bigger role in those, but blame vaccines. A BS degree doesn’t make you credible.

          Reply
          • Peggy O'MaraPeggy O'Mara Post author

            I think that vaccines are effective. My point is more about the legitimacy of philosophical, religious, and medical exemptions and to suggest we tolerate them.

    • Bethany

      For the love of God! Infants and people with compromised immune systems can’t get the vaccines and are the people most likely to have a severe reaction to the disease or die. They are protected by herd immunity, but as anti vaccination parents chip away at herd immunity they are more and more likely to be exposed.

      I don’t care where the disease comes from, the Philippians, Mars, Kentucky. The fact is the more unvaccinated people it spreads to the more likely my child, who is to young to be vaccinated, is to be exposed to it. It’s pretty simple.

      Reply
    • Rebecca

      It’s mainly because they are afraid kids who are immunocompromised, elderly, or infants can contract the diseases. They are standing up for those individuals. What they aren’t realizing is that technically, adults are not immune to the viruses either, unless they actually had the virus themselves. Their vaccine’s effectiveness has worn off and they are no longer protected. So there are many many more people that can theoretically pass on the virus than people realize.

      I personally am weary of kids vaccinated with live vaccines recently (flumist, mmr, polio, chickenpox). They shed the virus through their skin/membranes, bringing the virus to the grocery stores, to the nursery, to daycare, etc…BUT if they do shed, at least my children would contract them in a natural way, not injected intramuscularly, which is unnatural.

      I am not so worried about it that I quiz every mom in the nursery at the park, because I know I keep my kids healthy with good food, vitamins, etc. If they get a virus that “could have been prevented,” I would be ok with that. We have hospitals that have antibiotics, IVs for fluid, oxygen, etc that will help them recover when needed.

      What I am desperately concerned about is losing my rights over deciding this for my children. It scares the crap out of me because there would be no accountability over the money-crazed government or the money-crazed pharmaceutical companies who already shut every concerned parent and doctor out who may possibly disagree.

      So, the nonvax community, if I may speak for us all, push back because there is extreme bias and misinformation about this. We want accountability (pharmaceutical companies to be able to be taken to court for vaccine injuries, they are protected from this right now.), we want transparency (doctors to tell us everything, pros and cons, give us the vaccine insert at the office, no threat of docs losing their jobs because they say something they shouldn’t), and we want parents to be educated! Give parents all the info! If vaccines are so great, why are the CDC and pharm cos. so afraid to give us all the info?? Stop thinking they are so stupid that they can’t make an educated decision.

      Sorry this was so long. I digressed. But I hope I answered your question.

      Reply
    • K

      Because you can’t receive certain vaccinations until you are a certain age putting some demographics under risk from irresponsible people who can’t accept that there is literally a cure for a preventable deadly diseases. Also if you are immunocompromised say from chemotherapy, you can not receive the MMR. These people rely on others to be vaccinated in order to lower the risk of catching a disease that they themselves can’t protect against. To sum up, it is good for you, it is good for others, don’t be selfish.

      Reply
      • C

        If you had the actual virus as a kid you are not only immune but you pass on the protection to your newly born child if you breast feed. That is now lost to us because we vaccinate and nobody gets it naturally any more. Now, new babies are at risk and adults due to the waning effectiveness of the vaccines. Many adults do not get continuing boosters and are unknowingly able to contract the measles virus.

        Reply
  19. Willie

    Yeah, about blindly following doctor’s orders… I have type 2 diabetes. When it was discovered, my doctor immediately said “I’ll give you medication for it”. Nope, I said; let’s try eating better and losing weight. 40 lbs lost, I’m now considered a diet – controlled diabetic and I’m not taking diabetes medication. Don’t forget, doctors are given all sorts of incentives to push specific medicines. My 2 cents. P.S. My daughter very has chosen not to vaccinate my 3 year old grandson and I’m behind her 1000 percent. Can someone please explain why an infant needs HPV and HEPATITIS vaccines? Why does a tween need the HPV vaccine?

    Reply
  20. Charbswims

    C Hanson, you do realised that little baby that’s too young to get Vaxed is actually at greater risk from siblings, parents and well meaning relatives who go out and get their booster. No? Look up vaccine shedding. True for Pertussis and Measles. Look up the St Johns hospital fact sheet for cancer patients. Says right on it to avoid recently vaccinated children and adults. Stop blaming unvaxed kids for all your issues.

    Reply
  21. Marc A Cohen

    Your right to swing your fist around in the air ends at the tip of my nose. Children are not vaccinated to keep them from getting sick. They are vaccinated to keep OTHER people from getting sick. I have a friend with a suppressed immune system from medications she takes to reduce the chance of rejection of a kidney transplant she was fortunate enough to receive. When someone doesn’t vaccinate their children, they put HER life at risk, and have no right to do that. When vulnerable people get sick, parents of un-vaccinated children are morally responsible. They should be held legally and financially responsible as well.

    Reply
    • Peggy O'MaraPeggy O'Mara Post author

      Vaccinations are the only health care intervention required by law. And, parents and health care professionals have an inevitable conflict because parents do not vaccinate their children so that other children will not get sick; they do so to prevent their own children from getting sick. And, while public health can tolerate some vaccine reactions, parents understandably don’t want to risk them happening to their children.

      Reply
  22. natarani

    Can someone help explain what this means for unvaccinated kids? my girl is 2.5 completely unvaccinated and in private kindergarden. next year she will be stating public kindergarden = a lot more kids and probably with it more sicknesses. what do i do? i thought she should get measles/mumps/chicken pox before age 5…??

    Reply
  23. littleleicesterfox

    It says in the article that the media has debunked the link between MMR and autism; that simply isn’t true. That link was debunked by properly conducted double blind tests and the ‘link’ was only proposed by a single incredibly shaky study conducted by Andrew Wakefield, or to give him his full medical title these days Andrew Wakefield. His testing was so skewed and his analysis so flawed he was struck off by the BMC and is no longer allowed to practice medicine in this country.
    The article cites 3 cases where the vaccine went wrong. Let’s consider that in the context of the number of people who received the vaccine: I can’t find the exact figure but across the US, the UK and Italy it’s in the millions. So, 3 people have a PROVEN bad reaction to the vaccine out of millions. I like those odds compared to the chances of death or serious complications from measles.
    Yes the vaccine won’t work in 2 – 8% of recipients, and that’s why everyone who can should vaccinate: to protect those who cannot or who it does not work on. Not vaccinating when you can is incredibly selfish.
    It is not illogical to blame parents of unvaccinated children because the origin is either someone who has travelled abroad and brought the virus home or a foreign traveller who has visited infecting people. If people were immunised then it would not spread regardless and blaming foreigners is cheap and tacky, especially in the context of refusing to take any responsibility for your actions yourself. I thought you people would be above that.
    I’ve seen over the last few days a letter from Roald Dahl talking about his daughter dying from measles. What resonates is how he talks about how the disease was eradicated in the US at the time while his daughter died from it in 1968, but you’ve gone backwards and you’re at a quickly increasing incidence rate. Yet the Anti-vax parents stick their heads in the sand and deny responsibility. When I grew up there was a vaccine scare bubble in Leicestershire, it’s possible to find if you google and so I was not vaccinated against measles and my sister was not vaccinated against whooping cough and respectively we caught these diseases. My sister almost died, I had a miserable time but was lucky as there were no lasting effects. But the increased rate of incidence was DIRECTLY linked to the vaccine scare and increased only in the Leicestershire bubble.
    I am sure Peggy O’Mara is quietly hiding her years of medical training under a bush out of modesty but the simple fact is people are being willfully blind. It’s happening here too but vaccination rates drastically went up after the death in Swansea from measles in 2013 (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Swansea_measles_epidemic ). That’s a reality check too and the Disneyland thing should be as well. I don’t pretend to have any medical training and I am sure you’ll all say I’m brainwashed but instead of reading an opinion piece that coddles what you want to hear read this: http://www.badscience.net/category/mmr/ – if your beliefs are strong then surely they can stand up to a bit of challenging. I regularly read pieces by anti-vaxxers to see if they make sense to me (I hold a chemistry degree by the way so I feel I’m reasonably qualified to be able to critically weigh up evidence in a scientific manner). I’m sure that Ben Goldacre is totally brainwashed by the big pharma and they just pretend to hate him. If that’s what you wish to tell yourselves then go for it. He’s British and so it’s mainly about MMR in Britain where the whole autism scare thing originated because of Wakefield and as this whole thing is foreigner’s fault you’ll probably cheerfully dismiss it as irrelevant. But if any of you listen it would be great. I know you have thought it through and I respect the care you show for your children but please listen.
    We don’t see hospitals for sick children everywhere any more; that’s a great thing and is mainly due to vaccinations. Let’s keep it that way.

    Reply
  24. Brandy F.

    Thank you for this article, Peggy. I appreciate you taking the time to compile all of this information and I love that your goal was to promote tolerance.

    Even though I first saw this article on Facebook, I came here to comment. The comments posted on Facebook have been very mean-spirited. It’s also scary to see how many of my “friends” on that site are spewing hurtful comments about this subject and making a clear divide between our friendship without even realizing it (perhaps assuming that I’m on board with the suggested vaccination schedule since I have a strong background in science?). I’m usually very upfront about my beliefs and can be friends with pretty much anyone. It is sad to see so much intolerance and it feels stifling to not be able to open up about my choices, even though they were well thought out, educated, and in line with my spiritual perspective of Life.

    Reply
  25. deborah henderson

    Since you, Ms. O’Mara, influence such a wide audience of new parents, I opted to carefully read and research your current article.
    You wrote, “ The measles virus is one of the leading causes of death among young children worldwide” and “we can tolerate some dissent from vaccination policy without compromising its effectiveness”.
    However, death and effectiveness are absent from the body of the text.
    Instead the reader finds: Poetic license in reference to the Forbes and Dvorak articles, fear mongering to the black community, media, rather than extensive research, debunking the association between the MMR vaccine and autism, classism with the entire Who Are The Non-Vaccinated? section, etc. etc.
    Your point that measles outbreaks have been imported to the US rather than home grown left me saying to myself….and?
    NPR and other media outlets covered the outbreak in the Ohio Amish community in June 2014. A recent recap (I suggest reading all the associated articles) can be found here: http://www.vox.com/2015/1/29/7929791/measles-outbreak-2014

    Reply
  26. Sheila etkin

    Hi Peggy. Thank you once again for being a voice of reason in an increasingly crazy world. We raised our daughter free of vaccines after much research and soul searching. She lives in California now will soon start family of her own. I can only hope that she is afforded the opportunity to make her own choices in the areas of health care and vaccines. I run into you in Santa Fe from time to time and I always take the opportunity to tell you that you are a hero to me. I couldn’t have raised Zoe in Memphis tenn. In the 80s without the support of mothering magazine and you. I am soo grateful that you continue to speak out and support young families. Thank you Peggy. You are a beacon of light!

    Reply
  27. William j Cox DDS

    Peggy; you obviously have not been trained in science. Being the editor and publisher of Mother Magazine does not qualify you to comment on the effectiveness, side effects, etc. of vaccines! Stick to Mommy magazines and let the scientists take care of the epidemiological issues!

    Reply
    • Peggy O'MaraPeggy O'Mara Post author

      Actually, I have a Bachelor of Science degree, and I understand the scientific method. But it is being a parent that qualifies me to research an issue and make a decision on it. That’s just being responsible.

      Reply
  28. Shekinah13

    Thank you, Peggy. I’m grateful for your voice of reason in a world that seems to have gone completely insane. What boggles my mind is that “anti-vax” is being conflated with those who deny the science of global warming. People apparently don’t realize the difference in conflict-of-interest “science,” bought and paid for by those with an agenda and whose bottom line is excessively dependent on sales of their product… and that science from which there’s no money to be made. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I just think and reason critically!

    Reply
  29. Graham Peet

    While you are entitled to your opinions, and I agree with you that lawsuits are ridiculous, I disagree with almost everything else.

    “Many parents today are more concerned about the risks of chronic disease than the risks of rare acute diseases.”

    Of course they are. So many acute diseases have been eradicated or nearly wiped out by modern medicine, thanks in large part to vaccines.

    “Pediatricians need to let go of this knee-jerk reaction that parents who don’t vaccinate are irresponsible. Many of the parents I know who have chosen not to vaccinate are actually well-educated, active and contributing members of society. They are physicians, educators, people involved in government, law professors, medical professors, and academic professors.”

    They can still act irresponsibly. Having an education doesn’t mean that you don’t still exercise poor judgment now and then. Especially when you are basing decisions on bad information, and doing what you THINK is in the best interest of your child.

    “While more unvaccinated children will get sick when there’s an epidemic, this does not mean that they can be blamed for starting it.”

    Unvaccinated children grow up to be unvaccinated adults, who travel to foreign countries and catch diseases from a largely unvaccinated population. So yeah, they kind of can be blamed for starting epidemics.

    “We have to tolerate some disease because even when a vaccine is as effective as the measles vaccine, it won’t work for about 2% to 8% of recipients. And, measles vaccine acquired immunity is reported to wane in at least 5% of cases, within 10 to 15 years after vaccination.”

    This is why those that can be vaccinated should be. They can help protect the ones who cannot be vaccinated, and not endanger them.

    Your last few paragraphs summing up your argument have me shaking my head; your logic just doesn’t make any sense to me. I would say to each his own but I just can’t, because your opinions are a danger to society at large.

    “With a disease like measles that occurs once in 1,000,000 people in the US, we can certainly tolerate some dissent from vaccination policy without compromising its effectiveness.”

    If more people held your opinions, than there would be a much more serious risk to us all from diseases like measles. It’s because the majority choose to vaccinate that there can even be a minority who have the choice not to. I’ll take the chronic illness over the acute one any day.

    BTW, that CDC whistleblower, William Thompson, agrees;
    “I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.”

    Reply
  30. zoya888

    Thank you for your intelligent, well-researched and very informative article. For anyone who truly would like to learn more about vaccines, I recommend the Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears. I found it to be objective, informative and non-judgemental, without pushing one way or another. After reading it, I realized there are very small risks of contracting a disease or of an adverse vaccine reaction. I also learned that even the drug companies don’t claim vaccines are guaranteed to prevent. I learned about some of the crazy ingredients in vaccines(monkey kidneys?) and dangerous ones with neurological consequences(ie: Aluminum–the average dose of vaccines given to a 6 month old baby has 6 times the maximum allowable aluminum permitted in injectable meds for a healthy ADULT!)
    So thank you for being the voice of reason, Peggy!

    Reply
  31. Lisa

    Great article.

    I just want to mention that, prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine, there were about 500,000 cases REPORTED every year. Based on population data, and the numbers of people who had measles by the age of 15, the estimated number of actual cases was approximately 4,000,000 per year. 500 deaths out of 4,000,000 cases means a death rate of about 1 in 9,000. It also means that about 88% of cases went unreported because they were too mild to require treatment.

    I am not worried.

    Reply
  32. Charbswims

    So true SK. This myth about unvaxed kids being sick all the time is perpetuated as part of the overall propaganda and hype by pro vax Media. Fact is, in the groups of kids i know, the unvaxed kids not only have fewer long term illnesses like asthma and allergies but they seem to miss getting colds and flu or if they get it, it’s over in 1-3 days vs a week for the Vaxed kids. You can’t convince people to inject neurotoxins when they see for themselves the differences every day.

    Reply
  33. Jeanie Williamson

    Thank you for this break of sanity. There is great comfort in hearing your words of wisdom…and statistics along with facts of what is going on out there. The facts are often scattered and stories sometime swinging crazy left and right. You are a ray of light.

    Reply
  34. Miranda

    Yes, go ahead and believe your good doctors, most of whom are educated by MD’s/professors who are on the dole of big Pharma. Just remember, the same people who are telling you it’s safe to give children 48 vaccines before the age of 6 are the same one’s who are telling us that GMO’s are safe, our economy is healthy, there is a terrorist around every corner and never-ending wars are preserving our freedom. The fact is, our government/corporations (to be used interchangeably) thrive (and become billionaires) on a population of poorly educated, slightly to very unhealthy people who are in constant fear of something and willing to buy anything to look better/feel better even if it’s made in China and molded from unidentifiable chemicals. If you don’t think it’s all connected, you are fooling yourself. FOLLOW THE MONEY. We will NOT save ourselves with a magic bullet vaccine, pill, house/car, iPhone, etc. but if it makes you feel better, keep on doing it and blaming someone else for your misguided misery.
    Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.

    Reply
    • Dr. Julia LaJoie

      Where do I get my dole? Do you have Big Pharma’s e-mail address? I want my dole? Oh wait a minute, that’s right, I’ve just spent the last 30 years explaining to parents at least one million times why their kids don’t need an antibiotic for their cold virus because antibiotics don’t help and their little bodies are developing immunity to the virus and that is why they have a high fever, which by the way is the human body’s way to fight viruses because viruses can’t replicate at the higher temperature. So perhaps Big Pharma crossed me off the list…. That said, I’m just as greedy as the next doctor (because of course we all are) and I WANT MY DOLE!!!!!

      Reply
  35. Andrew Kilian

    Ma’am,

    I would ask that you please check to make sure whether your sources are true or not before spreading more dangerous illusions. That William Thompson excerpt is false.

    http://www.snopes.com/medical/disease/cdcwhistleblower.asp

    Why does it matter that the diseases originate from overseas? They can still be brought back over here, and they still place children at an unnecessary risk.

    This misinformation is spreading unnecessary pain and harm.

    Reply
  36. Daniel

    I once heard that of people suffering of terminal cancers about 99% had drank water at some point in their lives.

    I think that unless you are able to critically evaluate the validity of the evidence and really read some of the evidence prior to forming an opinion you should not have a voice in this debate. Mothers in third world countries walk for days on end to vaccinate their kids. The reason is that they see death all around them. We are lucky to live in a place where we have access to health care delivered by corrupt medicine that saves lives. Big pharma is there to make money. Take your unvaccinated kid to Africa. Didn’t think so. But please there is no reason on earth not to vaccinate your kids. If you believe there is I would start to question air travel, driving a car etc as those impose a bigger theoretical risk. Even messing with your children’s napping schedule will effect cognitive development more than the MMR vaccine. But we do so that you can roam the mall. Stop googling and pretending to understand evidence and studies and sometimes flawed methodology. Let those that understand it interpret it. Most importantly don’t ride the safety net the those who do vaccinate their kids impart on yours.

    Reply
  37. Ana

    I’d be curious to know how extended breastfeeding plays a role in the protection if unvaccinated children and how it may also support children as they get vaccinated. Not many forums address this in the vaccine debates. Since breastfeeding is such a powerful tool in overall health and immunity.

    Reply
  38. David Steele

    Big pharma and corporate technology, uh I mean science, has done such a great job of making sure the food chain is healthy that we should all take as gospel their advice on vaccination. It’s amazing how many cows you can pack in a feedlot once they’re all vaccinated!

    Reply
  39. MGust

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057555/

    This is the actual published journal article for the 2011 German study on vaccination status and health in children and adolescents.

    The conclusion of the journal article is “the prevalence of allergic diseases and non-specific infections in children and adolescents was not found to depend on vaccination status”.

    Full reference:
    Schmitz, R., Poethko-Müller, C., Reiter, S., & Schlaud, M. (2011). Vaccination status and health in children and adolescents: Findings of the german health interview and examination survey for children and adolescents (KiGGS). Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 108(7), 99–104. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2011.0099

    Reply
    • Peggy O'MaraPeggy O'Mara Post author

      If you look at the results of this study, you will see that in 6 to 10-year-olds and in 11 to 17-year-olds, vaccinated children have more allergic diseases than unvaccinated children. The German study I cite in the article is from 2013 and is about overall health and disease. But, we could throw studies at each other forever. My article is about the possibility of tolerating some differences of opinion and practice among parents in the US regarding vaccinations, not about deciding who is right.

      Reply
  40. John S. Daley

    Children that get diseases that have been known to be mostly contained by vaccine do not have a choice. That choice is left up to adults who are usually their parents or guardians ie: the state. It’s a situation that has yet to be resolved and may never be totally solved. I can’t speak for all but our family opted for vaccines. We may have gone with the crowd on this one but it seemed logical to us. It seemed to cause the least harm to our own children and others. We felt and thought it best after listening although we may have not listened as closely to the other side of the argument, if one can use that word. In this case we did what we felt was best for our family and society in general. As for others that chose not to do as we have it is their choice: which may harm others. I view it as I would war. \War is not good but many feel it is inevitable and must be done in favor for the better good. It just depends on who’s side your on. I find it tough to be rational about these two issues but one has to make a choice.

    Reply
  41. Laura

    My biggest concern about your post is that you seem to be hitting the argument from both sides: You argue that parents should still be concerned about MMR vaccinations being associated with autism and that they are right to be opting out of vaccinations. At the same time, you say that we shouldn’t worry because the national vaccination level is 1.5%. The reason that measles only occurs once in 1,000,000 people in the U.S. is because people are vaccinating their children. If everyone took your concerns about vaccinations to heart and stopped vaccinating their children, we would return to the 1950s measles incidences of 336.3 cases per 100,000 and having a very different conversation. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6878996) In short, I feel like you’re saying, “Please respect my right to dissent, because as long as you continue to vaccinate your children, we as a society will be fine.”

    On vaccination rates:
    It doesn’t matter that the school vaccination coverage in Texas is 99.3%. If I live in El Paso, Texas, I wouldn’t be worried about the vaccination of Houston, which is in the same state. I would care about nearby communities in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Studies have shown that counties (not states) with low vaccination rates have higher rates of whopping cough and MMR. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-states-should-aim-for-100-percent-vaccination/) As a parent I wouldn’t be concerned about the state average as much as I would be about the rate and the church nursery or school where I took my kids. That’s going to have a much more direct impact.

    On MMR vaccinations and autism:
    You argue that “an association between the MMR vaccine and autism has been continually debunked by the media.” The media did not debunk the connection. The medical community discredited Andrew Wakefield’s study. Doctors and researchers found that they could not replicate Wakefield’s results, and they also discovered that Wakefield had altered his data. The Lancet, the journal that published Wakefield’s article with falsified findings, partially retracted the article in 2004 and fully retracted the article in 2010. The court case in Italy that you cite was argued on the basis of Wakefield’s fraudulent article, and it is now being appealed. If you’re going to use the court of law to make your case, the jury is literally still out.

    Reply
  42. Bill

    Thanks for an article that contains information. Simply put. If your kid is vaccinated what do you have to worry about? End of story.

    Reply
  43. Grannynurse

    Thank you, Peggy for writing this. Recent studies show that parents who use slow-vaccinating (one at a time) or say no on certain vaccinations are highly educated, more educated than those who conformed to the prescribed schedule.
    Demonizing and criminalizing parents who carefully evaluate and weigh the consequences of vaccinating goes against everything I learned as a student nurse and as a young American. First: Patients have a right to refuse any medication and giving it to them against their will is assault and battery. In this case, the parent has those rights to protect their child’s body.
    The message that a parent who does not vaccinate exactly according to a certain schedule is the new boogie-man or the monster under the bed — that message comes directly from the boardrooms of the manufacturers of those vaccines. The whole campaign is being conducted by the very persons who will financially benefit from the false meme that if you vaccinate according to a certain prescribed schedule, your child will be safe. The meme does not inform folks that even the FDA protects certain children from vaccinations – those with allergies to ingredients in the medications, those with current illnesses, those of certain ages, those whose health is compromised. Attacking the character of another parent does not make your child safe.
    .

    Reply
  44. Amberbc

    While I do agree that many people who do not vaccinate their children are well-educated, I do not agree with not vaccinating unless there really is a medical reason for great concern, such as, a sibling had a severe reaction, or an actual allergy to a component of the vaccine. A causal link between ASD and certain vaccines has been disproved by the overwhelming majority of scientific study, and there have been an incredible amount of research and studies conducted to examine the possibility. If there is someone particularly vulnerable to severe or lasting side effects of a vaccine, that person is excused from having to have it. It is true that unvaccinated people do not introduce highly contagious diseases like the measles, but they are exceptionally vulnerable to them, and then spread them around, and often result in the most vulnerable people being infected, such as infants too young to be vaccinated, as well as those who cannot be vaccinated, and the elderly, and it is these populations who also experience the highest rates of complications of measles and other serious diseases. The unvaccinated pick up these diseases abroad or from someone who has been abroad recently carrying the diseases. In order to keep a population free of these kind of diseases, it is essential that at least 90% is vaccinated against it. I have no doubt that the majority of people who choose not to have their children vaccinated think they are acting in the best interests of their children, but sometimes they are not looking at the bigger picture, considering the health of their communities, etc., or all of the scientific research. As far as unvaccinated populations experiencing lower vaccination rates overall, one cannot give credit to lack of vaccination, but there are many practices the majority of these groups that protect them from getting sick, such as eating organic foods, healthier varieties of foods, using less chemicals in general, etc. And this group may have their children more isolated than average children, whether through homeschooling or whatever. It is interesting to note that when there is an outbreak of measles or other diseases that can be vaccinated against, many parents who hesitated to vaccinate will do so.
    I believe continued studies regarding many of the ingredients of vaccines should be continued, to find the safest effective ingredients, etc., and parents should not make decisions blindly. But I do not imagine there are any people who would prefer we go back to the days where people suffer the results of childhood diseases and the resulting complications, from diseases such as measles, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, polio, or even smallpox, in the times below vaccines were created. Numerous deaths and other life-altering results of these diseases have been avoided with populations being vaccinated. Not only do parents of healthy children vaccinate their children to protect their own children from these diseases, they do it to protect spreading them to others, especially particularly vulnerable populations.

    Reply
  45. Charbswims

    I don’t doubt that you believe you are doing the right thing. As a Dr you are trained to follow what you’ve learned in Med school and to believe peer reviewed research. Africans will be grateful for the help. They will see a decrease in deaths from vaccine preventable diseases. What they won’t connect initially is the infertility problems, the strange asthma and allergy issues, the sore achy joints in children. They won’t understand where these issues came from at first but, one by one they will connect the dots and begin to question the ingredients just as we do here.

    Reply
  46. Savraj

    Found this interesting and informative video about Measles by Barbara Fisher.

    (Measles in Disneyland: Third MMR Shot & Vaccine Exemption Ban)

    Reply
  47. LAG

    stop believing so “blindly” in Doctors, medicine is still a “practice” -trial and error-
    Doctors mean no harm but they are also “leaded and influenced” by studies pharma-corporations put out to validate their products, the Doctors themselves do not review in detail (they don’t have the time) or also choose to do trial and error.

    It should be the parents choice to get their kid vaccinated, what, when, how or not.

    Reply
  48. Mervyn H. KLine

    The Polio Vaccine and many other vaccines have reduced the level of these diseases in our population. That is a reason to continue , not to discontinue them.

    The autism debates was tied to the preservative in the childhood vaccine which contained mercury. Scientific studies have suggested that although mercury is a neurotoxin the level of mercury in the vaccines were as not responsible for autism that existed after some children were vaccinated. Other evidence suggested that autistic children may have had some other underlying defect which was antagonized by the mercury in the vaccine. A report was published that demonstrated autistic children may not be able to remove mercury from their body as effectively as most other children and this could be tied to their autism.

    But what is more frightening is the fact that one in 13 women of child bearing age has enough mercury in her blood to endanger her future fetus. This mercury comes from consuming tuna fish, and there is no worldwide clamor to protect children from this more danger exposure to mercury than the .vaccinations. (Furthermore, the use of single doses packages for the childhood vaccines has eliminated the need for a preservative in the vaccines and they should be much safer).. .

    There is also the dilemma of the children’s rights vs the parents rights. Children have been removed from parents who do not believe in doctors helping their children. they believe that what happens is God’s will. In Ben Franklin time when he discovered the lightening rod , there was a belief that when a house was struck with lightening it was God’s will to let it burn. The firefighters came to protect the adjacent homes so they would not catch fire. Later people decided to equip their home with lightening rods.

    Times have changed, childhood diseases have been been reduced. by many scientific advances, some as simple as washing your hands, covering your mouth when you sneeze. Many surgical advances such as the use of the correct blood type during a transfusion, the use of anesthetics during surgery as well as other advances have saved many many lives.

    . An adult friend of mine had a dilemma, he was told his mother needed surgery to stay alive. He was afraid his mother would die from the surgery. He refused to give his consent. His mother died.

    Should we ignore all of these advances because some people have died during their use?

    Reply
  49. Elizabeth Golden Holistic LMP, Birth Doula and Mother

    I share in the belief and experience of my son having a strong body with vibrant health due to being unvaccinated and due to his whole foods nutrient dense age appropriate diet and much follows the Weston A. Price findings and recommendations. My son has no chronic illness. When he does get an acute illness, his robust body can deal with it and his immune system educates itself naturally. If my son were to contract measles, I believe his body would be able to defend itself naturally with his strong and educated immune system. I also supplement his diet with cod liver oil supplying A&D (we also take extra D3) which helps stave off many illnesses/pathogens from even getting a hold within the body if exposed. We also consume naturally cultured foods every day to keep our bodies teeming with probiotics our frontline of defense and our best friends in nutrient absorption – all working to keep us healthy. I’ve read that recently vaccinated people are carrying the live virus and they are actually putting immune compromised folks at risk. Again, I believe my and my childs strong health and immune systems will keep us safe and if we were to get exposed, we would be able to fight it and build immunity without having to be exposed/assaulted by the harmful additives/delivery & preservative agents used with the vaccine.

    Reply
  50. Ginny

    Great article – thanks. Are u saying that my son’s one shot (w/o any booster shots) is 92-95 percent effective, according to the studies u mentioned (one said 92 and the other 95), with 5 percent chance that it could wane in 10-15 years from treatment. I would hypothesize that percent is higher for those who only got one shot w/o f/u boosters – do u know? My son is now 11 and in that range and there was someone at his school recently w measles.

    I didn’t give him boosters because he had a bad reaction to the first MMR, given after he was six months old (I refused to do any before six months and then spread them out, skipping the one needed only when sexually active). I asked two pedes we knew to break up the MMR into three vials or special order them and administer them seperately, but they said they couldn’t get them, so against my better judgement, I allowed it, but after his projectile vomitting, I never did boosters.

    My son is getting an IEP, but his special needs case is borderline, as his scores by themselves could go either way w/o looking deeper and doing other tests. We’re still testing at other clinics and waiting for a results consult w one. We tried when he was in 3rd grade and were denied an IEP, so in 6th we tried again and are getting it – he’s been consistently been two years behind in math since 1st grade and especially needs help mastering the foundations and then caught up to grade level.

    I don’t know if there’s a tie to his problems and any of the vaccines that we’ve done (did Polio, as we travel to Algeria often to see family, and they still have Polio there).

    I was thinking of doing boosters after his school exposure, but 92-95 percent is pretty good. Another part of me wanted to find that kid and make a play date w my son, like when they have chicken pox, so he gets it as a child and gets naturally immunized (I had measles three times younger than him – German and Rubella) or he wouldn’t get it because of his one vaccine or maybe a milder case of it – I wasn’t sure or if I was crazy to even think of such a thing. What are your thoughts on that?

    Mama Gin

    Reply
    • Peggy O'MaraPeggy O'Mara Post author

      Regarding the effectiveness, yes, I think you’ve got it right, but look at my source and confirm.

      I agree with you that a previous reaction to the vaccine is a good reason to be very cautious with your son. From, what I understand,this can be a danger sign. Unfortunately, single dose vaccines are not available in this country, though parents want them. They are available in Japan.

      I don’t think you’re crazy about exposure to wild measles.

      Reply
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