For a disease declared “eliminated” in America by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2000, newsfeeds are alarmingly reporting more and more measles outbreaks popping up. Up until recently, our citizenry employed a powerful combination of science and common sense to help: I do not want my child to suffer and die, and I don’t want other children to suffer and die.
That logic does not hold any longer as a group now called “anti-vaxxers” has convinced members of the public of a spate of erroneous claims disproven repeatedly, yet somehow retain their hold. The latest outbreak, Feb. 22 in Chicago, exposed people at the Chicago Midway International Airport from 9 p.m. until midnight. The Illinois resident was contagious and not vaccinated for measles.
The Illinios Department of Public Health reported that the resident also exposed people at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital’s emergency department on Feb. 24. People in the emergency room between 11:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. and at other times from Saturday to Sunday may also have been exposed. If you may have been one of those unfortunate souls, check here for the possible times of exposure.
The anti-vaxxers are not a group of “hicks” or “stupid people” – they are a dangerous mix of educated and misguided who place their own “opinions” above peer-reviewed and proven science, medical advice, and common goodness. Encouraged by a small handful of pediatricians and mommy blogs on “natural” health, anti-vaxxers tend to be white, educated, and wealthy.
In response, the World Health Organization has now declared “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top 10 threats to global health. The CDC is working to encourage doctors and other health professionals to help parents “Think Vaccine” and visit pages on the CDC website to work with parents to discuss their concerns and receive factual responses to their questions.
So what can YOU do?
- Vaccinate your children.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need to be convinced that vaccines are safe and effective in protecting your child from deadly, contagious, and disfiguring diseases. Vaccinating your children protects them and others against these threats. Learn about which vaccines to get here.
- Vaccinate your children on time.
Children under 12 months are the most likely to die from many of the diseases for which we have vaccines. The CDC, working with a group of physicians and public health experts at the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, develops a schedule for vaccines based on the vulnerability of your child and the impact of exposure to your child. Following this schedule protects your child at its most vulnerable. The schedule is here.
- Ensure your vaccinations are up to date.
While most people are vaccinated, people vaccinated before 1989 only received one dose of the vaccine. If you were vaccinated before then, check with your doctor about whether you should get a fresh vaccine. There is no risk from getting a second vaccine.
- Share positive information on social media to combat false claims against vaccination.
The CDC and others have a tremendous resources and studies that prove vaccines are safe, that they do not cause autism, and that without them the world faces death and suffering that is completely preventable. The CDC provides information for the reasons to vaccinate and the benefits of vaccinating. (Do remember that leading with “You’re stupid or an idiot” usually doesn’t get a good response – engage respectfully and with the objective to teach, not punish.)
a. There is no link between autism and vaccination.
b. Research sources on the safety of various vaccines.
- Be aware of organizations pushing the anti-vaccine agenda.
Organizations that have anti-vaccination agendas and are pushing their anti-science, anti-logic agenda on Facebook and with Congress often use names that sound official. Visit the website, learn about their mission and founders before sharing their information or relying on a name that implies they are related to the scientific community or the government.
- Sign up for alerts from the CDC’s Current Outbreak List.
Obviously, knowing where an outbreak has occurred is difficult. You can’t see it or know about it until health officials can recognize it and warn the public. Whenever possible, be aware of areas identified at risk because of an unvaccinated person and understand the types of outbreaks and threats present from the CDC’s Outbreak alert system.
- Track the safety of vaccines yourself.
The CDC and FDA track the safety of every vaccine provided to your child. There is a lengthy process to get a vaccine approved and the safety is weighed against the risk. Read more about the U.S. vaccine safety system. You can also find all of the adverse reporting to vaccinations at the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) where the CDC, FDA and public health officials record all side effects and adverse effects of vaccines.
- Support and fight for your state to require vaccines.
States with more permissive vaccination laws help spread and support the infection of disease among children. Organizations pushing the anti-vaccination agenda are targeting both state and federal legislatures to stop efforts that support vaccinations and are lobbying for more exemptions to vaccine requirements.
It is unfortunate that we must spend time and resources on a battle for vaccinations instead of tackling new challenges; however, together, our community can make a positive impact and perhaps even eradicate these devastating diseases for good.
National Council for State Legislatures (information on states that allow “philosophical” exemption from vaccines)