Back in the 1960s, the U.S. started vaccinating kids for measles. As expected, children stopped getting measles.

But something else happened.

Childhood deaths from all infectious diseases plummeted. Even deaths from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea were cut by half.

“So it’s really been a mystery — why do children stop dying at such high rates from all these different infections following introduction of the measles vaccine,” says Michael Mina, a postdoc in biology at Princeton University and a medical student at Emory University.

Scientists Crack A 50-Year-Old Mystery About The Measles Vaccine

Photo credit: Photofusion/UIG via Getty Images

A FEW years back, an acerbic friend of mine who was a recent transplant to Los Angeles told me that she itched to write a satirical novel with the following narrative:

A group of wealthy, educated people in Santa Monica who deliberately didn’t vaccinate their children subsequently take them on a “poor-ism” trip to a developing country. The goal is to make them wiser and more sensitive to suffering in the world. While being sensitized, the kids catch diseases that they could have been inoculated against. Some of them die.

As a plot, it lacks subtlety (and compassion). But as a parable, it’s crystal-clear. You can be so privileged that you’re underprivileged, so blessed with choices that you choose to be a fool, so “informed” that you’re misinformed.

Which brings us to Disneyland, measles and the astonishing fact that a scourge once essentially eliminated in this country is back.

You’ve probably heard or read about the recent outbreak traced to the theme park. But there’s a chance that you’re unaware, because it hasn’t received nearly the coverage that, say, Ebola did, even though some of the dynamics at work here are scarier.

It started in mid-December and is now believed to be responsible for more than 70 cases in seven states and Mexico; 58 of those are in California, which of course is where the park is — in Orange County, to be more specific.

As it happens, there are affluent pockets of that county where the fraction of schoolchildren whose parents have cited a “personal belief” to exempt them from vaccinations is higher than the statewide average of 2.5 percent. That’s also true of some affluent pockets of the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

It used to be that unvaccinated children in America were clustered in impoverished neighborhoods; now they’re often clustered among sophisticates in gilded ZIP codes where a certain strain of health faddishness reigns. According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter last year, the parents of 57 percent of the children at a Beverly Hills preschool and of 68 percent at one in Santa Monica had filed personal-belief exemptions from having their kids vaccinated.

Why? Many of them buy into a discredited theory that there’s a link between the MMR (mumps-measles-rubella) vaccine and autism. They’re encouraged by a cadre of brash alarmists who have gained attention by pushing that thinking. Anti-vaccine panic was the path that the actress Jenny McCarthy traveled to innumerable appearances on prominent news and talk shows; she later demonstrated her singular version of concern for good health by working as a pitchwoman for e-cigarettes.

Other parents have separate or additional worries about vaccines, which can indeed have side effects. But they’re weighing that downside against what they deem to be a virtually nonexistent risk of exposure to the diseases in question. And that degree of risk depends entirely on a vast majority of children getting vaccines. If too many forgo them, we surrender what’s known as “herd immunity,” and the risk rises. That’s precisely what health officials see happening now.

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FRANK BRUNI, writing in the New York Times, “The Vaccine Lunacy.”

Another reason to hate the rich.

Melinda Gates Just Basically Told Anti-Vaxxers to Check Their Privilege

“We take vaccines so for granted in the United States,” Gates explained during a news segment on the matter for HuffPost Live on Thursday. “Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine because they have seen death.”

Dude the other day in my class, my professor was talking about the whole measles thing and she was like “and measles is coming back because for some reason, parents aren’t vaccinating their children. Oh wait, I know why they aren’t. Because they’re scared their child will get autism. Which is stupid, but even if it were true, that means that parents would rather a dead child than a child with autism. Which is ridiculous.” Like let that sink in for a moment.

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Measles - Subacute Sclerosing Pancencephalitis

  • a rare and fatal late complication of measles infection
  • due to an immune reaction to the virus, causing inflammation, swelling of the brain, it is always fatal
  • it may appear years after apparent recovery 
  • rarely seen now in countries with vaccination programmes 

Take a moment to ponder this GIF from the Council on Foreign Relations. Every dot represents an outbreak of preventable disease–and preventable suffering. This is why immunizations are so important for children and for their communities.  #Vaccineswork.