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MMR Vaccine Debate Heats Up as Media Claim ‘Vaccine Hesitancy’ to Blame for Recent Outbreaks

As major news outlets linked reports of measles cases in the U.S. and U.K. to declining vaccine rates, experts told The Defender that case numbers in the U.S. have been extremely low for decades and the very minor variations in vaccination rates do not make a difference.

Measles outbreaks are in the news again

In the U.S., local health departments and media reported about 16 cases of measles between December 2023 and January. The outbreaks occurred in PhiladelphiaNew JerseyGeorgia and Washington.

In the United Kingdom, the UK Health Security Agency reported 209 cases between January and November 2023 and about 319 cases between October 2023 and the present.

Media blamed international travel and declining vaccination rates among children as “probably” behind the outbreaks.

But Dr. Liz Mumper, a pediatrician, told The Defender it doesn’t make sense to assume the unvaccinated are to blame. She said cyclical outbreaks still occur even in populations with nearly 100% vaccination, such as college students.

Dr. Paul Thomas, a retired pediatrician and author of “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health-from Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years Paperback,” told The Defender some cases of measles are reported every year. Despite the hype around the recent outbreaks, he said, “There have not been any significant measles outbreaks in the U.S. for decades.”

The largest recent national spike in measles cases occurred in 2019 when 1,274 cases were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was the worst year for measles in the U.S. since 1992.

Since 2019, the number of cases reported has been significantly lower: In 2020, there were 13 cases, in 2021, 49 cases, in 2022 there were 121 cases and in 2023, there were 56 cases. The post-2019 numbers also tend to be lower than the numbers from 2000-2018, which averaged around 200 per year.

Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Measles is a contagious childhood viral disease characterized by a cough, runny nose and fever, followed by a generalized rash.

It was declared to be eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 — meaning there was no continuous transmission.

Mortality from measles in the U.S. declined significantly during the 20th century — 98% from 1900 to 1963, before the measles vaccine was introduced — due to advances in living conditions, healthcare and nutrition, according to Physicians for Informed Consent.

Since 2000, there have been only four measles deaths in the Americas — three in 2000 and one in 2022, according to a November 2023 CDC report.

The overwhelming majority of the approximately 130,000 measles deaths annually occur in countries in the global south that have weak health infrastructures, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Those deaths, along with measles hospitalizations in the global north, are associated with vitamin A deficiency.

“Measles can be deadly if a child does not have access to safe water and medical care,” Mumper said. “In developed countries, fatalities from measles are very rare.”

Effective treatments include vitamin A in high doses and attention to hydration status, Mumper said.

“Many natural methods to help the body fight viruses, like extra vitamin D and vitamin C are effective but not widely recommended by mainstream medicine,” she added.

Prior to the introduction of the vaccine in the U.S. in 1963, most people contracted measles and gained lifetime immunity, and the number of deaths had dropped to 0.9 per 100,000 for children under age 10.

The vaccines significantly reduced the number of reported measles cases, with efficacy rates that can be upwards of 95%, Thomas said. However, he added immunity from the vaccines wanes over time.

“From a mechanistic standpoint, the lifelong 100% natural immunity comes when measles is caught through respiratory spread. Giving a vaccine by injection may be an inherently poor substitute for Mother Nature,” Mumper said.

Approximately 83% of children globally received one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine by their first birthday in 2022.

Hotez, Offit blame the ‘anti-vaxers’ for measles outbreaks

Although case numbers have declined in the U.S. since 2020, and the recently reported cases were either among adults or children who may be too young to have completed the MMR vaccine schedule, news reports about the outbreaks consistently link them to lower post-pandemic vaccination rates among kindergarteners.

The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine, with the first dose at 12 to 15 months old and the second dose between ages 4 and 6.

The agency reported that from the 2019-20 school year to the 2021-22 school year vaccination rates for state-required vaccines among kindergarten children declined from approximately 95% to approximately 93%, and the exemption rate increased to 3.0%.

CDC data going back to 2011 show that rates typically vary from year-to-year, but consistently stay above 93%.

Thomas said the drop has been minimal and “given the loss of immunity in both children and adults in the vaccinated, this minor reduction in MMR uptake by children is not going to make a difference [in infection rates].”

Dr. Peter Hotez, a go-to “expert” for mainstream media on vaccines — and a vaccine developer and patent holder himself, who has repeatedly smeared vaccine safety advocates as “anti-science aggressors” — told ABC and CBS News that he thought the sporadic outbreaks were likely a result of lowered vaccination rates and that they were going to get worse.

“We’re just seeing now, this is the tip of the iceberg,” Hotez said. “We’re going to be seeing this in communities across the United States in the coming weeks and months because of the spillover of the U.S. anti-vaccine movement of childhood immunizations.”

According to ABC — quoting Hotez, Dr. Paul Offit and the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Gregory Poland — this is due to vaccine “misinformation” linking vaccines and autism, combined with the politicization of the COVID-19 vaccines, which Hotez said caused “an acceleration of anti-vaccine sentiments.”

Hotez has been making these arguments for years, writing a New York Times op-ed in 2020 claiming there is no link between vaccines and autism and blaming unvaccinated people for infectious disease outbreaks.

Offit said given the vaccine’s efficacy, it was “unconscionable” for parents to forgo vaccination for their children.

But there is a significant and growing body of evidence suggesting the MMR vaccine can cause autism in certain susceptible children. That includes evidence that U.S. Department of Justice lawyers suppressed testimony by their own expert witness making the link, and evidence from whistleblower William Thompson, Ph.D., that the CDC covered up its own data showing a link between vaccines and autism.

In a Substack post from 2022, Dr. Peter McCullough evaluated a study on the “Association Between Vaccine Refusal and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the United States,” namely measles and pertussis.

The study indicated that since measles was declared eradicated in 2000, there have been 18 published studies of 1,416 measles cases — 43.2% of the cases occurred in vaccinated people and no hospitalizations or deaths were reported.

McCullough concluded:

“Large fractions of ‘preventable disease outbreaks’ involving measles and pertussis occur because vaccines fail to provide adequate protection. Given the neuropsychiatric concerns over the MMR vaccine and the stochastic risk of allergic/immunologic reactions to any injection including components of (DTaP, Tdap) or MMR, the parental movement for vaccine choice is well justified.

“For measles and pertussis, the vaccines convey imperfect protection and breakthrough infection (vaccine failure) should receive considerable ‘blame’ by public health researchers.”

Mumper said the vaccine schedule has changed, lowering efficacy. “Vaccine efficacy was calculated to be ~94% when the first dose was given at 15 months,” she said.

“Now babies are scheduled to get the first dose at 12 months (only 85% efficacy) and their second dose at kindergarten.”

Mumper added, “People with different genotypes respond differently to MMR vaccines, so there is variable measles transmission depending on the individual’s immune response. Up to 10% of the population does not develop enough protective antibodies.”

New outbreaks lead push for adults to get another MMR

Derek Gatherer, Ph.D., a lecturer in biomedical and life sciences at Lancaster University who is funded by the U.K. government to study “vaccine hesitancy,” said the solution to the problem of measles outbreaks is more vaccination — for adults.

Gatherer published a recent article in The Conversation blaming the vaccine-hesitant for the outbreaks. He argued that even adults who are already vaccinated should consider getting more MMR jabs.

“Measles is the most infectious disease known to science — adults should consider getting another MMR vaccine,” he declared.

Gatherer conceded that the measles risk to adults is extremely small, but said “adult MMR is still worthwhile as it goes beyond just protecting the person who receives the vaccination,” stopping asymptomatic infections from spreading.

Thomas said it is not common to recommend booster shots to adults for illnesses they were vaccinated for as children. “However,” he added, “the pharmaceutical industry, backed by the CDC, has been looking at the adult population as an untapped resource to expand market share and penetration.”

Reports of cases rising in the UK

In the U.K., measles was considered eliminated in 2016, but it resurfaced in 2018.

U.K. MMR vaccination rates average 85%, down from a peak of 88.6% in 2014, with some locations reporting rates as low as 74%.

According to The Guardian, “Most experts agree that misinformation about the MMR jab is very unlikely to play a significant role in declining vaccination rates.

“It is too easy to blame anti-vaccine sentiment for the measles outbreaks,” Helen Bedford, professor of children’s health at the University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health told the paper. “Although some mistrust of vaccines may play a small part, research shows that parental vaccine confidence remains high.”

Experts there pointed to pandemic disruptions in vaccination, concerns among Muslim and Jewish communities about the use of porcine gelatin in the vaccine, and also the fact that because the disease is so rare, people are less concerned about possible risks.

England’s National Health Service is launching an MMR vaccination campaign, the BBC reported, contacting 4 million parents via text, email or letter to inform them their child has not had one or two doses of the vaccine.

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