With seven confirmed cases of measles in Arizona, and perhaps 1,000 people in the state exposed to the disease, health officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated against the disease if they haven't already done so.
At the same time, other individuals and groups are using the outbreak as an opportunity to persuade others not to vaccinate themselves and their children. The thoroughly discredited claim that the vaccines cause autism is the most talked-about opposition to immunizations, but it's certainly not the only reason.
In the wake of the Arizona measles cases -- stemming from an outbreak at the Disney parks in California -- we've found several other reasons some people have opposed vaccinations:
- Abortion's role in the creation of the measles vaccine
Some vaccines, including the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine, were developed in part with the use of cells that originated from two aborted fetuses.
Debra Vinnedge, the head of an organization called Children of God for Life, sought guidance for Catholics from the Vatican on this issue, and the Vatican issued a study on the subject, which came with an ambiguous answer. It reads, in part:
As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health. However, if the latter are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis. The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favouring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children. This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles.
(Note: "German measles" is a nickname for rubella. It's the rubella part of the MMR vaccine that was developed from the fetal tissue.)
Vinnedge tells New Times there's a clear directive from the Vatican for Catholic parents to call for an alternative to this vaccine, but it's not so clear on whether to immunize children with this vaccine.
"They basically left this up to parents," Vinnedge says.
Children of God for Life and another organization, American Life League, have been using the outbreak to raise awareness for their campaign, which seeks to get Merck -- the maker of the MMR vaccine -- to release the three vaccines separately so parents who don't want their children receiving the rubella vaccine can still be immunized against measles and mumps.
Although it may seem like another anti-vaccination stance, Vinnedge told us that's not the case, saying, "You don't want to see children dying because the parent wanted to make a moral statement."
- A doctor's advice
Believe it or not, there's at least one doctor who's urging parents not to vaccine kids.
Local TV station 12 News actually ran a segment this week about a Dr. Jack Wolfson (we checked -- he's an actual licensed osteopathic physician), who told the news station, "We should be getting measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox. These are the rights of our children to get it."
He added, "I'm a big fan of what's called paleo nutrition, so our children eat foods that our ancestors have been eating for millions of years. That's the best way to protect."
That's obviously not a common belief shared by doctors, but a Google search will show that there are doctors who give anti-vaccine advice to parents.
- Actual medical reasons
There also are medical reasons some children are not vaccinated. For example, according to medical guidelines, children don't receive the first dose of the MMR vaccine until they're 1 year old.
Kids who are allergic to certain ingredients can't get vaccinated, and neither can kids with compromised immune systems, like a child with childhood leukemia.
Local doctor Dr. Tim Jacks, who is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, wrote a viral open letter to the parent of a child with measles who exposed as many as 195 people at an urgent-care center for children in Mesa. Jacks has a daughter, Maggie, who has childhood leukemia and can't be vaccinated. She had just finished another round of chemotherapy and was at the facility for lab tests when she was exposed by the kid with measles, which is the most contagious disease out there.
The family was planning to go on vacation, but they now have to stay home and wait out the 21-day incubation period to see if Maggie develops symptoms.
- A generation not familiar with eradicated diseases
Whatever the underlying motivation a parent has against vaccinating their children, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a conference call Thursday that this generation may not see the importance of vaccines because they haven't seen the diseases in action.
Younger people probably haven't seen cases of measles or polio or whooping cough or any number of other diseases and may not understand the severity.
Measles, for example, leads to a cough, rash, and fever of up to 105, among other symptoms. Measles in children can lead to pneumonia, lifelong brain damage, deafness, and even death.
Health officials say the measles vaccine is 99 percent effective.
Meanwhile, statistics show the number of children entering school without the proper vaccinations in Arizona has been increasing in recent years.
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In 2004, about 1.6 percent of children in kindergarten were not fully vaccinated because of a parent's religious or personal beliefs. That number was up to 4.7 percent in 2014. In Arizona charter schools, 9 percent of kids are exempted from vaccines because of their parents' beliefs.
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