A recent episode of “Madam Secretary” takes us through an exercise of how the “anti-vaxx” movement might play out. Two children are infected with measles following a trip. Both fall gravely ill, but eventually recover, however one has complications that will follow her for the rest of her life.
While both mothers are distraught, the mother of the unvaccinated child is wracked with guilt for the pain inflicted on her child as well as what has happened to her friend’s child. “I thought I was doing the right thing and protecting my child from autism”, she laments.
Sadly she had fallen victim to the scourge of the internet: the spreading of misinformation and conspiracy theories. This trend of fear mongering, “alternative facts” and science denial has damaged so many parts of our society. The current measles outbreaks are evidence of this type of damage.
Dr. Jack Kimple, retired family physician, recounts an incident many years ago where he and colleagues (including Dr. Cazeneuve) could not diagnose a child who was feverish, listless and had a rash. Finally an older colleague happened by and immediately diagnosed measles. The diagnosing problem was caused by the fact that vaccines had reduced the incidence so dramatically, that it just wasn’t seen anymore. Younger family physicians are telling me that they now need to refresh their knowledge as well.
Personally, I remember measles quite well. Some of my 6 siblings suffered more than others when they contracted the disease. In fact, from 1958 to 1962, the U.S. averaged 503,282 reported cases and 432 death associated with measles each year. Successful vaccination campaigns had all but eliminated the disease by early 1990’s.
Redding area schools ARV (All required Vaccines) vaccination rates for 2017 are shown at the website https://www.shotsforschool.org/k-12/how-doing/. It shows two charter schools in the “red” category with less than 80% of the kindergarten level students fully vaccinated: Chrysalis & Redding School of the Arts. Three are rated “more vulnerable” with 80-89% and 10 are moderate with 80-89%, 3 did not report. Only 9 schools met the “safest” category of 95-100%, which meets the standard for “herd immunity”.
Shasta Community Health Center has recently begun offering Saturday well child clinics in hopes of increasing their population’s relatively low vaccination rates.