"What we've seen is, as over the last few years, a small but growing number of people have not been vaccinated. That number is building up among young adults in society, and that makes us vulnerable," Frieden said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "We have to make sure that measles doesn't get a foothold in the U.S. It's been actually eliminated from this country for 15 years. All of our cases result, ultimately, from individuals who have traveled and brought it back here."
There are at least 102 reported cases of measles in 14 states, according to CDC statistics. Frieden said there will likely be more cases going forward, and the CDC is taking "aggressive public health action" to identify contacts and isolate those infected in order to stop the spread.
But, he said, the disease is preventable and the best way to do that is with the vaccine, which he said is "safe and effective." There is a 92 percent vaccination rate in the United States, but the number of unvaccinated children is higher in certain states. In California, where an outbreak of the disease has been linked to Disney theme parks in the southern part of the state, 8 percent of kindergarteners fail to get the required immunizations against measles, mumps and rubella. In Pennsylvania, that number rises to 15 percent of kindergarteners.
CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “I didn’t see a single case of measles during my training. You probably didn’t either. Parents didn’t need to be convinced to immunize their children in those days because they probably had measles as a child or knew of children in their community who had complications or died before the vaccine was available. As a young missionary in Kenya, I took care of a entire isolation ward full of children with severe measles complications. (We had a total of 427 admissions in 1984). Children had pneumonia, encephalitis and died because the immunization rates in our service area were under 20 percent. The problem was so severe that despite working long days and every third night, I started a community health program that, among many other initiatives, sent staff on motorcycles to vaccinate children under trees, in school rooms, churches and in the marketplace. Volunteers were trained to teach and motivate their neighbors on this issue. Five years later, we had dropped our measles admissions by 95 percent, and measles was almost completely wiped out in seven years. My passion for immunization is not academic. I saw it save many lives.
“But how do we balance parental rights and the need to have children immunized? CMDA has an eloquent and practical ethics statement available on this topic. Read it and add it to your files. You will be better equipped to educate others about this issue in the news.”
CMDA Ethics Statement on Immunization
Vaccinations Information and Recommendations
Is Vaccination Complicit with Abortion?