Fear of Vaccinations My Ass

No this post isn’t me not jumping on the anti-vaccination bandwagon; I just found a “study” with such an absurd conclusion that I had to call it out. A recent study released by a Mayo Clinic physician claims that the recent fear of the measles vaccine being linked to autism is having devastating effects:

More than 150 cases of measles have been reported in the United States already this year and there have been similar outbreaks in Europe, a sign the disease is making an alarming comeback. The reappearance of the potentially deadly virus is the result of unfounded fears about a link between the measles shot and autism that have turned some parents against childhood vaccination, says Gregory Poland, M.D. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/bio/10966366.html), of Mayo Clinic. In the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings (http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com), Dr. Poland urges doctors to review extensive scientific research that has found no connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

Somewhere around 150 cases of measles in the United States is devastating? Really? Because according to numbers put out by the National Institute of Health 150 cases in one year is absolutely unworthy of noting if you look at the number of measles cases reported in the United States since the release of the vaccine:

Measles—Incidence (Historic)
During this century, there has been a dramatic decrease in measles epidemics. Prior to the development of the measles vaccine, 5.7 million people died each year from measles. (Some historians have suggested that measles might have contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire.)

In 1920, the United States had 469,924 measles cases and 7,575 deaths due to measles. From 1958 to 1962, the United States had an average of 503,282 cases and 432 deaths each year. (Measles reporting began in 1912; prior to this time, no statistics are available.) In large cities, epidemics often occurred every two to five years.

When the measles vaccine came on the market in 1963, measles began a steady decline worldwide. By 1995, measles deaths had fallen 95 percent worldwide and 99 percent in Latin America. In the United States, the incidence of measles hit an all-time low in 1998, with 89 cases and no deaths reported.

There have been several epidemics in the United States since 1963: from 1970 to 1972, 1976 to 1978, and 1989 to 1991. The epidemic of 1989-1991 claimed 120 deaths out of a total of 55,000 cases reported. Over half of the deaths occurred in young children.

You’ll notice that since the introduction of the measles vaccine the number of reported cases dropped dramatically but have never hit zero. Likewise since the introduction of the vaccine there have been three epidemics of measles with a lower number of reported cases between each epidemic. These epidemics occurred before anybody noted a potential link between the measles vaccine and autism which means there must have been a different factor.

Instead of trying to blame the anti-vaccination movement (which isn’t even that big of a movement from what I’ve seen) for the sudden upsurge in measles infections maybe researchers should look into the cause of previous epidemics and use that data to determine likely reasons for the current upsurge in cases.