In the US, we eradicated measles. The 20th century brought one of the greatest weapons ever to fight infections: vaccinations. Prior to the vaccination campaigns several decades ago, people potentially died or suffered permanent medical problems after being afflicted with these deadly viruses that vaccines now prevent. The body of scientific evidence showing a decrease in death rate and complications as a direct result of instituting widespread vaccine programs is massive. In fact, any true scientist will tell you the evidence is clear and that vaccines save lives. Yet, in the 21st century, we are bringing measles back into existence.
Last year, an outbreak of measles occurred from, of all places, Disneyland. And just last month, one woman died after contracting this deadly virus. It was the first death related to measles in the US in decades. The fact that there are many parents who refuse to vaccinate their children appears to have hastened the spread of the outbreak.
California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation banning a family’s personal and religious beliefs as reasons to exempt their children from school vaccinations, joining 32 other states that don’t allow parents to opt out of vaccination requirements. Opponents to the controversial decision are speaking out, including celebrities (again). Jim Carey of Hollywood fame spoke out against decreasing these religious exemptions. He supported his position by discussing the harmful substances in vaccines.
“There are many false beliefs being spread around from anti-vaxxer groups and celebrities alike.”
First of all, a true religious exemption should be determined by a patient’s religious beliefs. In fact, most anti-vaxxers are claiming religious exemptions when the truth is they just don’t want their kids to be vaccinated. So call it what it is but don’t debate on a lie.
In Jim Carey’s recent rant against vaccines, he cites poisons in vaccines and suggests we read Robert Kennedy’s anti-vaccine book. Apparently, the rising autism rate is caused by the mercury preservative in the MMR vaccine. Scientific evidence clearly established that there is no association between the two. Additionally, for the most part, thimerosal (the mercury preservative in vaccines, is no longer used. Yet, the autism rate continues to climb. The celebrities cite the rise in autism to the MMR vaccine. Yet, they offer no explanation to the continuing climb. For many in the medical profession, it is explained by the fact that we are improving our diagnostic criteria for identifying children with autism. In schools, teachers now know much more than they did about autism just a few years ago. We are identifying more children, not because the now preservative-free vaccine is causing autism, but because we possess better tools for identifying it.
While many denounce vaccines because they have been swayed to believe they are poisonous, others proclaim that too many vaccines overwhelm the child’s immune system. This is another false scientific belief. A child being vaccinated is receiving less than 100 antigens spread over many months. When a baby is born, he/she goes from the sterile environment in the womb to be immediately bombarded with millions to billions of antigens at the moment of birth. The immune system is made to adapt and fight off these infectious particles.
There are many false beliefs being spread by anti-vaxxer groups and celebrities alike. These people did not perform any scientific studies or possess any evidence to support their claims. They are standing on uneducated logic and falling for false proclamations. But, this is bringing measles back. They claim measles is no longer as deadly as it used to be. But, one woman’s death on the West coast clearly proves them wrong. Measles is still the same virus that it used to be. Let’s hope more do not need to give their lives or suffer the horrible complications to convince them of the truth. Will we let this woman die in vain?
Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.