A recent report from Europe has given us all here in America a peek at a world without immunizations.
We often are asked about delaying or avoiding the use of immunizations. As with all discussions of medical interventions we start with respecting parents’ wishes, and share the information we have about the potential benefits and the potential risks.
On many occasions, we wonder if some people would prefer a world in which immunizations no longer existed.
This hope and desire has reached a much higher level in Europe than America, and so far fewer children are immunized there than here.
This has allowed all of us in America to see, to a very small degree, what the world would look like without immunizations.
The report talks about an explosion of measles in Europe, an explosion created entirely by families choosing to not immunize their children with the measles vaccine, the MMR.
Here are the details and what we learned from Europe’s dalliance with not immunizing.
It is very possible that no one in Advanced Pediatrics has seen measles. It has been essentially absent from Ohio for many, many years. I had it as a child, but have not ever seen a case since my days in training, where I saw one case.
The sound of the word measles is very cute. It sounds like yet another harmless childhood illness. We still have roseola and fifth disease, and no one seems to be very bothered by those, maybe measles is like that too.
Sadly, measles turns out to be a far, far harsher disease than roseola or fifth disease.
It is caused by a virus, the rubeola virus. It’s called rubeola because it turns kids red as rubies. Their eyes get far redder than any pink eye, it causes a furious fever, and a horrifying cough.
What few of us know anymore since it has been absent from our lives for 2-3 generations, is that it is also quite deadly.
It was measles and smallpox that killed about 95% of the native Americans when Europe arrived.
Even today, in the world of modern medicine, if 10,000 kids get measles, 10-20 will die, 500 will get pneumonia, and several will be left with permanent brain damage. Not really cute at all it turns out.
This potentially deadly and impairing disease is also crazy contagious. In Disneyland in 2015, one child with measles led to 39 cases which spread to 150 children in 7 states.
Measles is one of the most contagious germs we know of.
Colds are not. It takes about 100 hours of contact with someone with a cold to have a 50% chance of catching it. That’s one reason why so many families see one child with a cold and not everyone else gets sick.
But measles, watch out. If you are not immunized and you get exposed you have about a 90% chance of getting sick with the dangerous measles disease.
The Word from Europe: Measles is Here and it Kills
For most countries in Europe, kids get immunized only if the parents want them to, there is no law or school entry requirement for immunization in most countries in Europe.
And it was in England, after all, that the great hoaxster, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, falsified data and claimed that the measles vaccine caused autism. One of the great hoaxes of history, hundreds of millions highly education people got taken in by the scam. It took about 20 years for the falsity of this hoax to be fully accepted, but much suspicion about the MMR, leading to a sharp drop-off in its use, particularly in Europe.
What has been the impact of the Wakefield-MMR-hoax?
In 2017 there were over 21,000 kids with measles, up fourfold even from the year before.
35 children died of measles in Europe in 2017. Not one had to.
Warning on Travel to Europe
The explosion of measles in Europe has led our CDC to declare parts of Europe a Class 1 travel watch area, a hazardous place to be if you aren’t fully immunized against measles. Those parts are: Italy, Britain, Greece, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine. Americans are now officially on notice that everyone under age 60 should have 2 MMR’s prior to going to measles-ridden parts of Europe.
Italy is so saddened at the needless death of its children that it has actually passed laws that would fine families $600-3,000 for not giving immunizations.
A Glimpse of a World without Immunizations
Even with the explosion of measles in Europe, it is still the case that a majority of Europeans immunize their children, so we aren’t really seeing what the world would look like with no immunizations, but it is a glimpse.
Another glimpse is offered by what the world did look like before the MMR was widely used.
As recently as 1980, about 2.6 million children died every year, from measles.
Across the world, this catastrophe compelled most nations to run to get the MMR for their children, the result is in 2016, the number of children dying from measles is now under 100,000. Again, far too many, but the MMR is moving that to zero.
- Measles is not cute. It’s not like roseola or fifth disease, it kills about 1 in 50 children who get it. It leaves many with a serious pneumonia, or permanent brain damage.
- Measles vaccine does not cause autism. The basis for this claim was a paper published by a man later revealed to be a charlatan. Every serious study on the subject proves that if we abolished the measles vaccine, autism would be happening at the same increasing rates.
- Communities that refuse to use the MMR experience measles epidemics, and children die in these epidemics, for no very good reason at all.
We at Advanced Pediatrics are very pleased to make the 2 recommended doses of MMR available as soon as they are known to start being effective: 12 months of age and then 3 months later.
We know using the MMR stops measles epidemics, and if enough people decide not to use it, measles epidemics re-appear. So we strongly urge all families to protect their children from a disease we know causes death and disability, tragedies being seen today across Europe. Let us hope we don’t do this to our children here.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin