The modern era of vaccines began in the late 1790’s with the development of the smallpox inoculation. This and other vaccinations are credited with eradicating some diseases world-wide and saving millions of lives.
Vaccinations are given to build up a person’s natural defense by exposing them to the disease and reducing the risk of future infection. Since the 1960s, two doses of the measles vaccine have been given to young children to prevent the disease, which causes symptoms ranging from pneumonia to vision loss, and even death.
The number of measles cases had been steadily declining due to the consistent vaccination of children worldwide. Since 2017, however, measles cases have inclined drastically. The World Health Organization reports that measles cases surged with a nearly 50 percent increase last year alone. Prior to routine vaccinations, between 400 and 500 measles deaths occurred annually in the United States.
According to Dr. Alan Melnick, director of public health for Clark County, Wash., an unvaccinated person can be in the room two hours after someone with measles has left, and still contract the disease. Moreover, a person with measles “will infect 90 percent of the folks who are susceptible around them.”
WHO officials warn that while lack of access to the vaccine is the problem in marginalized nations, wealthy countries are seeing this resurgence, as well, especially in places where vaccination coverage is high.
What is causing the upsurge in measles cases and what are the consequences if someone decides not to vaccinate?
Joining us on Smart Talk do discuss the measles resurgence are Dr. John Goldman, MD, Infectious Disease specialist at UPMC Pinnacle, and Dr. Rene’ Najera, DrPH, a Public Health medical professional and editor of the History of Vaccines, a site run by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
Dr. Rene’ Najera and Dr. John Goldman